Hawthorne effect
Overview
 
The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they know they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.

The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger when analysing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works
Hawthorne Works
The Hawthorne Works, in Cicero, Illinois, was a large factory complex built by Western Electric starting in 1905 and operating until 1983. It had 45,000 employees at the height of its operations. Besides telephone equipment, the factory produced a wide variety of consumer products, including...

 (a Western Electric
Western Electric
Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering company, the manufacturing arm of AT&T from 1881 to 1995. It was the scene of a number of technological innovations and also some seminal developments in industrial management...

 factory outside Chicago).
Encyclopedia
The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they know they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.

The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger when analysing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works
Hawthorne Works
The Hawthorne Works, in Cicero, Illinois, was a large factory complex built by Western Electric starting in 1905 and operating until 1983. It had 45,000 employees at the height of its operations. Besides telephone equipment, the factory produced a wide variety of consumer products, including...

 (a Western Electric
Western Electric
Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering company, the manufacturing arm of AT&T from 1881 to 1995. It was the scene of a number of technological innovations and also some seminal developments in industrial management...

 factory outside Chicago). Hawthorne Works had commissioned a study to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers' productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded. It was suggested that the productivity gain occurred due to the impact of the motivational effect on the workers as a result of the interest being shown in them.
Although illumination research of workplace lighting formed the basis of the Hawthorne effect, other changes such as maintaining clean work stations, clearing floors of obstacles, and even relocating workstations resulted in increased productivity for short periods. Thus the term is used to identify any type of short-lived increase in productivity.

History

The term gets its name from a factory called the Hawthorne Works
Hawthorne Works
The Hawthorne Works, in Cicero, Illinois, was a large factory complex built by Western Electric starting in 1905 and operating until 1983. It had 45,000 employees at the height of its operations. Besides telephone equipment, the factory produced a wide variety of consumer products, including...

, where a series of experiments on factory workers was carried out between 1924 and 1932.

This effect was observed for minute increases in illumination.

Evaluation of the Hawthorne effect continues in the present day.

Most industrial/occupational psychology and organizational behavior textbooks refer to the illumination studies. Only occasionally are the rest of the studies mentioned. In the lighting studies, light intensity was altered to examine its effect on worker productivity.

Relay assembly experiments

In one of the studies, experimenters chose two women as test subjects and asked them to choose four other workers to join the test group. Together the women worked in a separate room over the course of five years (1927–1932) assembling telephone relays.

Output was measured mechanically by counting how many finished relays each worker dropped down a chute. This measuring began in secret two weeks before moving the women to an experiment room and continued throughout the study. In the experiment room, they had a supervisor who discussed changes with them and at times used their suggestions. Then the researchers spent five years measuring how different variables impacted the group's and individuals' productivity. Some of the variables were:
  • giving two 5-minute breaks (after a discussion with them on the best length of time), and then changing to two 10-minute breaks (not their preference). Productivity increased, but when they received six 5-minute rests, they disliked it and reduced output.
  • providing food during the breaks
  • shortening the day by 30 minutes (output went up); shortening it more (output per hour went up, but overall output decreased); returning to the first condition (where output peaked).


Changing a variable usually increased productivity, even if the variable was just a change back to the original condition. However it is said that this is the natural process of the human being to adapt to the environment without knowing the objective of the experiment occurring. Researchers concluded that the workers worked harder because they thought that they were being monitored individually.

Researchers hypothesized that choosing one's own coworkers, working as a group, being treated as special (as evidenced by working in a separate room), and having a sympathetic supervisor were the real reasons for the productivity increase. One interpretation, mainly due to Elton Mayo
Elton Mayo
George Elton Mayo was an Australian psychologist, sociologist and organization theorist.He lectured at the University of Queensland from 1911 to 1923 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, but spent most of his career at Harvard Business School , where he was professor of industrial...

, was that "the six individuals became a team and the team gave itself wholeheartedly and spontaneously to cooperation in the experiment." (There was a second relay assembly test room study whose results were not as significant as the first experiment.)

Bank wiring room experiments

The purpose of the next study was to find out how payment incentives would affect productivity. The surprising result was that productivity actually decreased. Workers apparently had become suspicious that their productivity may have been boosted to justify firing some of the workers later on.
The study was conducted by Elton Mayo
Elton Mayo
George Elton Mayo was an Australian psychologist, sociologist and organization theorist.He lectured at the University of Queensland from 1911 to 1923 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, but spent most of his career at Harvard Business School , where he was professor of industrial...

 and W. Lloyd Warner
W. Lloyd Warner
William Lloyd Warner was a pioneering anthropologist noted for applying the techniques of his discipline to contemporary American culture.-Career at Harvard:...

 between 1931 and 1932 on a group of fourteen men who put together telephone switching equipment. The researchers found that although the workers were paid according to individual productivity, productivity decreased because the men were afraid that the company would lower the base rate. Detailed observation between the men revealed the existence of informal groups or "cliques" within the formal groups. These cliques developed informal rules of behavior as well as mechanisms to enforce them. The cliques served to control group members and to manage bosses; when bosses asked questions, clique members gave the same responses, even if they were untrue. These results show that workers were more responsive to the social force of their peer groups than to the control and incentives of management.

Interpretation and criticism

H. McIlvaine Parsons (1974) argues that in the studies where subjects received feedback on their work rates, the results should be considered biased by the feedback compared to the manipulation studies. He also argues that the rest periods involved possible learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

 effects, and the fear that the workers had about the intent of the studies may have biased the results.

Parsons defines the Hawthorne effect as "the confounding that occurs if experimenters fail to realise how the consequences of subjects' performance affect what subjects do" [i.e. learning effects, both permanent skill improvement and feedback-enabled adjustments to suit current goals]. His key argument is that in the studies where workers dropped their finished goods down chutes, the "girls" had access to the counters of their work rate.

It is possible that the illumination experiments were explained by a longitudinal learning effect. It is notable however that Parsons refuses to analyse the illumination experiments, on the grounds that they have not been properly published and so he cannot get at details, whereas he had extensive personal communication with Roethlisberger and Dickson.

But Mayo says it is to do with the fact that the workers felt better in the situation, because of the sympathy and interest of the observers. He does say that this experiment is about testing overall effect, not testing factors separately. He also discusses it not really as an experimenter effect but as a management effect: how management can make workers perform differently because they feel differently. A lot to do with feeling free, not feeling supervised but more in control as a group. The experimental manipulations were important in convincing the workers to feel this way: that conditions were really different. The experiment was repeated with similar effects on mica
Mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

 splitting workers.

Richard E. Clark and Timothy F. Sugrue (1991, p. 333) in a review of educational research
Educational research
Educational research refers to a variety of methods, in which individuals evaluate different aspects of education including but not limited to: “student learning, teaching methods, teacher training, and classroom dynamics”....

 say that uncontrolled novelty effects cause on average 30% of a standard deviation
Standard deviation
Standard deviation is a widely used measure of variability or diversity used in statistics and probability theory. It shows how much variation or "dispersion" there is from the average...

 (SD) rise (i.e. 50%-63% score rise), which decays to small level after 8 weeks. In more detail: 50% of a SD for up to 4 weeks; 30% of SD for 5–8 weeks; and 20% of SD for > 8 weeks, (which is < 1% of the variance).

A psychology professor at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

, Richard Nisbett, calls the Hawthorne effect 'a glorified anecdote.' 'Once you have got the anecdote,' he said, 'you can throw away the data.'"

Harry Braverman
Harry Braverman
Harry Braverman was an American Socialist, economist and political writer. He sometimes used the pseudonym Harry Frankel.Braverman was born on the 9th December 1920 in New York City...

 points out in Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century
Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century
Harry Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century was one of the most important sociological books of its era. It revived academic interest in both the history and the sociology of workplaces setting the agenda for many subsequent historians and...

that the Hawthorne tests were based on industrial psychology and were investigating whether workers' performance could be predicted by pre-hire testing. The Hawthorne study showed "that the performance of workers had little relation to ability and in fact often bore an inverse relation to test scores...". Braverman argues that the studies really showed that the workplace was not "a system of bureaucratic formal organisation on the Weberian model
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

, nor a system of informal group relations, as in the interpretation of Mayo and his followers but rather a system of power, of class antagonisms". This discovery was a blow to those hoping to apply the behavioral sciences to manipulate workers in the interest of management.

The Hawthorne effect has been well established in the empirical literature beyond the original studies. The output ("dependent") variables were human work, and the educational effects can be expected to be similar (but it is not so obvious that medical effects would be). The experiments stand as a warning about simple experiments on human participants viewed as if they were only material systems. There is less certainty about the nature of the surprise factor, other than it certainly depended on the mental states of the participants: their knowledge, beliefs, etc.

Research on the demand effect also suggests that people might take on pleasing the experimenter as a goal, at least if it does not conflict with any other motive, but also, improving their performance by improving their skill will be dependent on getting feedback on their performance, and an experiment may give them this for the first time. So you often will not see any Hawthorne effect—only when it turns out that with the attention came either usable feedback or a change in motivation.

Adair (1984): warns of gross factual inaccuracy in most secondary publications on Hawthorne effect and that many studies failed to find it. He argues that it should be viewed as a variant of Orne's (1973) experimental demand effect. So for Adair, the issue is that an experimental effect depends on the participants' interpretation of the situation; that this is why manipulation checks
Manipulation checks
Manipulation check is a term in experimental research in the social sciences which refers to certain kinds of secondary evaluations of an experiment.- Overview :...

 are important in social sciences experiments. So he thinks it is not awareness per se, nor special attention per se, but participants' interpretation must be investigated in order to discover if/how the experimental conditions interact with the participants' goals. This can affect whether participants believe something, if they act on it or do not see it as in their interest, etc.

Rosenthal and Jacobson (1992) ch.11 also reviews and discusses the Hawthorne effect.

In a 2011 paper, economists Steven Levitt
Steven Levitt
Steven David "Steve" Levitt is an American economist known for his work in the field of crime, in particular on the link between legalized abortion and crime rates. Winner of the 2004 John Bates Clark Medal, he is currently the William B...

 and John A. List
John A. List
John August List is The Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in 1996...

 claim that in the illumination experiments the variance in productivity is partly accounted for by other factors such as the weekly cycle of work or the seasonal temperature, and so the original conclusions were overstated. If so, this confirms the analysis of SRG Jones's 1992 article examining the relay experiments.

See also

  • Reactivity (psychology)
    Reactivity (psychology)
    Reactivity is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals alter their performance or behavior due to the awareness that they are being observed. The change may be positive or negative, and depends on the situation. It is a significant threat to a research study's internal validity and is typically...

  • Self-determination theory
    Self-Determination Theory
    Self-determination theory is a macro theory of human motivation and personality, concerning people's inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind the choices that people make without any external influence and interference...

  • Motivation
    Motivation
    Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

  • Experimenter effect
  • John Henry effect
    John Henry effect
    The John Henry effect is an experimental bias introduced into social experiments by reactive behavior by the control group. It is essentially the opposite of the Hawthorne Effect....

  • Observer-expectancy effect
    Observer-expectancy effect
    The observer-expectancy effect is a form of reactivity, in which a researcher's cognitive bias causes them to unconsciously influence the participants of an experiment...

  • Reflexivity (social theory)
    Reflexivity (social theory)
    Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a situation that does not render both functions causes and effects...

  • Pygmalion effect
    Pygmalion effect
    The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, often children or students and employees, the better they perform...

  • Placebo effect
    Placebo effect
    Placebo effect may refer to:* Placebo effect, the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work...

  • Novelty effect
    Novelty effect
    The novelty effect, in the context of human performance, is the tendency for performance to initially improve when new technology is instituted, not because of any actual improvement in learning or achievement, but in response to increased interest in the new technology...


Further reading

[Reviews references to Hawthorne in the psychology methodology literature.] [A very detailed description, in a more accessible source, of some of the experiments; used to argue that the effect was due to feedback-promoted learning.]

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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