Hawthorne Effect

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Definition of 'Hawthorne Effect'

The Hawthorne effect is a type of reactivity in which subjects change their behavior in response to being observed. This can occur in any situation where people are aware that they are being watched, but it is most commonly studied in psychology and social science. The term was coined in 1927 by Henry A. Landsberger, who was studying worker productivity at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company.

Landsberger's study found that when workers were placed in a special experimental room and observed by researchers, their productivity increased. This increase in productivity was not due to any changes in the working conditions, but rather to the fact that the workers were being observed. Landsberger concluded that the workers were motivated to perform better because they felt like they were part of a team and that their work was important.

The Hawthorne effect has been replicated in many other studies, and it has been shown to occur in a variety of settings. For example, students who are aware that they are being graded tend to perform better on tests, and patients who are aware that they are being observed by doctors tend to report feeling better.

The Hawthorne effect can have a significant impact on the results of research studies. If subjects are aware that they are being observed, they may change their behavior in ways that make it difficult to interpret the results. For this reason, researchers often try to minimize the Hawthorne effect by using blind studies, in which neither the subjects nor the researchers know who is in the experimental group and who is in the control group.

The Hawthorne effect is a complex phenomenon that is not fully understood. However, it is an important consideration for researchers who are conducting studies in which subjects are aware that they are being observed.

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