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The Hawthorne effect is a term that describes the tendency of individuals to alter their or change behavior given the awareness of being observed. The effect plays out in an experiment or research in which subjects modify certain aspects of their behaviors because they know they are being monitored, thereby causing changes in the result of the research or experiment parameters.
The Hawthorne Effect shows how reactivity or modification of human behaviors can reduce the integrity of research or experiment parameters.
A Little More on What is the Hawthorne Effect
The Hawthorne effect strongly rests on the tendency of some people to modify their behavior due to the attention they are receiving from researchers. The Hawthorne effect resulted from an experiment conducted between the 1920s and 1930s at the Western Electric’s factory in the Hawthorne suburb of Chicago. It expressed the likelihood of individuals to act in a particular manner just because they are being observed.
For instance, the original intent of the Hawthorne experiment is to study how the productivity of employees is impeded by shop – floor lightning. However, researchers found out that employees’ productivity improved both when the lightning was bright and when it was dimmed. The researchers then discovered that the employees modified their behaviors because they were aware they were being observed.
The Hawthorne Effect and Modern Research
Modern research on the Hawthorne effect has revealed that the findings of many Hawthorne experiments in the past were overstated or exaggerated. For instance, a 2009 study conducted by economists from the University of Chicago economists in 2009 showed that the Hawthorne Effect has an undertone of an overstatement. This is because there is no proven evidence or data that quantifies how subjects modify their behaviors when they are being observed.
However, the presence of the Hawthorne Effect leaves a researcher the option of depending on experience and human judgments when conducting research involving human subjects.