Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. John Austin

Second Advisor

Dr. James E. Carr

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard Malott


A number of studies have suggested the key difference between effective and ineffective managers is the extent to which managers engage in a particular form of monitoring - work sampling (Komaki & Minnich, 2002). Effective managers observe employees instead of relying on self-reports or secondary sources of performance. A factor contributing to the effectiveness of work sampling may be an increase in desired behavior as a function of reactivity to the presence of an observer. In spite of the large volume of research on the effects of observer presence on various physiological responses and task performances (Guerin, 1993), a study has not yet been conducted to discover the functional properties of observer presence - why people change their behavior when an observer is present. The evocative/eliciting effects of the presence of an observer on behavior are consistent with a number of behavioral stimulus functions and could serve any number of stimulus functions depending upon the behavioral history of an individual. Although evocative effects of observer presence are consistent with multiple discriminative and motivative stimulus functions (e.g., SD-p+, Sp+, CEO-R), physiological responses elicited by observer presence (e.g., palmar sweat) suggest the nature of the function to be generally aversive. If observer presence is unpleasant, people are likely to work to terminate or avoid observation (Olson, Laraway, & Austin, 2001) - an undesirable prospect for those whose performance improvement efforts rely on direct observation of employees. The current study investigated the behavioral function of observer presence by systematically manipulating (a) the presence/absence of an observer, and (b) the operation of a performance-contingent observation termination contingency. A within subject, multi-element-design, with a non-concurrent multiple-baseline across participants was employed to assess the effects of experimental manipulations. Participant performance met the criteria for termination in 93% of termination sessions. When allowed to choose between observer-present and observer-absent conditions, participants chose to work alone during 92% of sessions. Although these findings suggest an aversive function of observer presence, the specific stimulus function of observer presence still remains in question. An argument for an SD-p+ function of observer presence is made, however CEO-R, and Sp+ functions are also plausible.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access