The Hawthorne Effect

Via Poker News

By Dr. Tim Lavalli

The Hawthorne Effect describes an actual mistake discovered by some researchers. The original study was attempting to discover the relationship between worker productivity and working environment. The first variable introduced was lighting. The question was: would better lighting mean higher worker output, and then would poorer levels of lighting reduce worker output?

At first the data was all over the board, there was higher productivity with less light and then more with more light and then even more with normal lighting. It began to seem like lighting made no difference, yet the worker productivity was up and then down based on something else, or was it nothing at all? This sort of information is not uncommon in research settings because researchers have not controlled for all of the elements in the environment.

At some point one of the junior assistant researchers noticed that the productivity levels of the workers went up when the researchers were observing them. It didn’t matter what the level of lighting was, it was the attention of the researcher — even the mere presence of the researcher — that was affecting the productivity of the workers. Hence, we have the Hawthorne Effect, which is defined as changes in behavior3 by test participants related to the attention they are receiving from the researchers.

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