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The Hawthorne effect (also referred

to as the observer effect) refers to a
phenomenon whereby workers
improve or modify an aspect of their
behavior in response to a change in

The "Hawthorne effect" study
suggested that the novelty of having
research conducted and the increased
attention from such could lead to
temporary increases in productivity.

It was conducted to bring about motivational
influences, job satisfaction, resistance to change, and
effective leadership skills among the workers.
Due to the Great Depression, in the early 1900s to
inspire company loyalty, discourage high employee
turnover and unionization, and present a good face
to the public, corporate managers began to focus on
the well-being of the employee through the practice
of welfare capitalism.
Professors from Harvard Business School conducted
the Hawthorne experiments (the illumination room
test, etc) at the manufacturing unit of AT&T namely-
Western Electric.
Elton Mayo
White Head
William Dickson
Fritz Roethlisberger

Elton Mayo
was coined in 1950 by Henry A.
Landsberger when analysing earlier
experiments from 19241932 at
the Hawthorne Works (a Western
Electric factory outside Chicago)
The Hawthorne plant of GENERAL
ELECTRIC Co., Chicago, was manufacturing
telephone system bells. It employed about
30,000 employees at the time of the
In respect of material benefit workers this
was the most progressive company with
pension and sickness benefits and other
recreational facilities, there was a great
deal of dissatisfaction among the workers
and productivity was not up to the mark.
Illumination experiment (nov.1924)
Relay assembly test room experiment
Interviewing program (1928-1930)
Bank wiring room observation experiment

Harvard Business School, Western Electric undertook a
series of behavioral experiments. The first, a sequence
of illumination tests from 1924 to 1927, set out to
determine the effects of lighting on worker efficiency
in three separate manufacturing departments. Accounts
of the study revealed no significant correlation between
productivity and light levels. The results prompted
researchers to investigate other factors affecting worker
Funded by G.E.
Conducted by The National Research Council of the
National Academy of Sciences with engineers from
Purpose: To study the effect of various lighting
conditions on the workers productivity
Conclusion: Accounts of the study revealed no
significant correlation between productivity and light
In a separate test room, an operator prepared parts for
five women to assemble. The women dropped the
completed relays into a chute where a recording device
punched a hole in a continuously moving paper tape.
The number of holes revealed the production rate for
each worker. Researchers were unsure if productivity
increased in this experiment because of the introduction
of rest periods, shorter working hours, wage incentives,
the dynamics of a smaller group, or the special
attention the women received.
Conducted by Elton Mayo
Manipulated factors of production to measure effect on
output (pay incentives, length of work, day and work
week, use of rest periods, company sponsored meals)
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).
Conclusion: Workers output increased as a response to
attention, recognition, and sense of belonging.

Conducted 21,000 interviews
Objective: To explore information which could be used
to improve supervisory training
Conclusion: Merely giving an opportunity to talk and
express grievances would increase the morale.
Conducted by Elton Mayo and W. Lloyd Warner
Purpose: To find out how payment incentives would
affect productivity.
Conclusion: Productivity actually decreased. Workers
apparently had become suspicious that their
productivity may have been boosted to justify firing
some of the workers later on.
Adair 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 Ornes (1973)
experimental demand effect. So for Adair, the issue is that
an experimental effect depends on the participants'
interpretation of the situation; this is why manipulation
checks are important in social sciences experiments. So
he thinks it is not awareness per se, nor special attention
per se, but participants' interpretation that 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.

Possible explanations for the Hawthorne effect
include the impact of feedback and motivation
towards the experimenter. Receiving feedback on
their performance may improve their skills when an
experiment provides this feedback for the first time.

Research on the demand effect also suggests that
people may be motivated to please the experimenter,
at least if it does not conflict with any other
motive. They may also be suspicious of the purpose
of the experimenter. Therefore, Hawthorne effect may
only occur when there is usable feedback or a
change in motivation.

Parsons defines the Hawthorne effect as "the
confounding that occurs if experimenters fail to
realize 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
participants had access to the counters of their
work rate.

Hawthorne studies had a remarkable impact on
management in organisations and how workers react
to various situations.
Stimulated interest on human behaviour in
A lot of literature came out analysing the human
behaviour in organisations
In spite of the shortcomings of the experiments, it
initiated a new approach to management (human
relations approach)
Organisation behaviour by Fred Luthans
Organisation behaviour by Pearson
Harvard Business School website