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What is the Hawthorne Effect? The one-minute guide

Updated Thursday, 1st October 2015

When conducting research on how people behave, it's important to consider the Hawthorne Effect. But why? A really, really quick introduction.

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Black background with a halogen light strip positioned diagonally from top left corner to right-hand corner in the middle. Text saying "In the 1920s, workers at the Hawthorne Works in Chicago were observed to be more productive in better-lit conditions" is positioned above the light.
A bright yellow halogen bar light is positioned horizontally across the top of a black rectangular background. Text below is written in white and says "the initial conclusion was that paying more attention to working conditions would improve how well workers performed",
A switched on lightbulb hangs from a wall on the right side of the picture, so that the centre of the image is lit up. The background is black and there is text that says "in the 50s, Landsberger said that the study failed to account for how people modify their behaviour when being observed".
A brightly lit yellow halogen light protrudes from the left side of the image.The background is black and there is white text over it that says "the Hawthorne Effect (or the Observer Effect) suggests subjects may change their behaviour as a result of being observed as much as because of other experimental variables".

In the 1920s, workers at the Hawthorne Works in Chicago were observed to be more productive in better-lit conditions.

The initial conclusion was that paying more attention to working conditions would improve how well workers performed.

In the 50s Landsberger suggested that the study failed to account for how people modify their behaviour when being observed.

The Hawthorne Effect (or the Observer Effect) suggests subjects may change their behaviour as a result of being observed as much because of other experimental variables.

 

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