Hawthorne Effect

Posted on October 29, 2009 by

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You give your workers a cup of coffee in the morning and their performance improves! You give your workers a glass of milk in the morning and their performance improves! You give your workers a glass of water in the morning and their performance is outstanding! What is going on here? It may be that you have some really thirsty workers or it could be the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect describes an improvement in people’s performance due to the fact that they are being studied—not as the result of an experimental manipulation. Simply the fact that you were studying your workers and their performance may have improved their performance regardless of what you were offering them to drink. The term originated from studies performed at the Hawthorne Works company where the effect of different lighting levels for the workers was being examined. It appeared that the workers may have improved their performance because they were being studied–not because of the various levels of lighting–and this is how the term was born. The important thing to remember is that when performing a study involving human behavior, whether it be to improve a business process or further a psychological theory, people may not be reacting to what you assume is influencing their behavior.

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