Meaning & Definition
The Hawthorne effect, also known as the observer effect, is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals modify their behavior when they are aware of being observed. This phenomenon was named after a series of studies conducted at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s, which were originally intended to study the relationship between lighting conditions and worker productivity.
During the Hawthorne studies, researchers found that workers’ productivity increased when they were aware that they were being observed or when changes were made to their working conditions. However, this increase in productivity was not solely due to changes in lighting or other environmental factors; it was primarily attributed to the fact that the workers felt special or valued because they were being studied, and they wanted to perform better in response to this attention.
The Hawthorne effect highlights the idea that people often alter their behavior when they are aware of being watched, and it has broader implications in various fields, including psychology, sociology, and management. It suggests that the mere act of observation can influence how people behave, making it important for researchers and managers to consider the potential impact of this phenomenon when conducting studies or implementing changes in organizations.