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Hawthorne Effect

What is Hawthorne Effect?

The Hawthorne Effect is what happens when people change how they act because they know they're being watched. It suggests that at work, when employees get attention from their bosses, they might work differently.

The name comes from experiments in a place called Hawthorne, near Chicago, in the 1920s and 1930s. These studies tried to see if workers would do their jobs better under different conditions like brighter lights or different break times.

A simple drawing would show the words "Hawthorne Effect" to explain this idea in business. Later, people found out that workers did better because they were being watched by the researchers, not really because of the changes in their work environment. A study in 2009, though, said that these first results were probably made to seem more important than they were.

The History of the Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne Effect got its name from a guy named Henry A. Landsberger in 1958. He was looking back at those older studies. He used the name of the electric company where the first tests happened, Hawthorne Works. In the first test, they changed the lights for the workers to see if they would make more products. And they did – no matter if the lights were brighter or dimmer. But once the testing stopped, they made less.

Other tests changed when workers had breaks or how long they worked, and they also did better. But again, when the tests stopped, they went back to how they were before. So, the idea was that the workers were really reacting to the attention from the bosses and the researchers, not the changes around them.

When Landsberger made up the term "Hawthorne Effect," he meant it as a short-term boost in work because people were being watched.

The Bank Wiring Room Experiment

In the 1930s, researchers Mayo and Warner did another study. They wanted to see if paying workers more would make them do more work. They had 14 men building telephone equipment and paid them based on how much they did. But, when they got more money, they actually did less work.

The workers thought this extra money was a trick and that later they might lose their jobs or get paid less. The researchers were interested in why this happened. They found out the workers had their own group rules that kept their work steady no matter what the bosses did.

These groups controlled their members. They affected how workers talked to their bosses and how they acted during the study. In the end, the workers cared more about their group's rules than the money the company was offering them.

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