Hawthorne effect

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Hawthorne effect

a term derived from the Hawthorne investigations (see HUMAN RELATIONS SCHOOL), in which the conduct of experiments produced changes in the behaviour of subjects because, firstly, they knew they were being observed, and, secondly, investigators developed friendly relationships with them. In the first instance, the Hawthorne effect made sense of the otherwise puzzling experimental finding of an inverse relationship between illumination (environmental change) and employee output. In the second instance, the attempt to assess the impact of a range of variables on the performance of employees, who were removed from their normal work situation, was rendered problematic, partly because over time investigators adopted a friendly supervisory relationship with the subjects. The difficulty in disentangling the effects of poorly controlled changes on the observed improvement in employee output was controversially resolved in favour of stressing the significance of employee preference for friendly supervision of cohesive and informal work groups. Indeed, this finding became the main platform in the prescriptions which human relations theorists proposed for effective management.

In both of the cases described above, the Hawthorne effect was associated with the way in which subjects interpreted and responded to poorly controlled experimental changes. As the researchers became aware of the need to consider the ways in which employees interpreted their work situation, other techniques of investigation, such as interviews and observation of natural settings, were adopted. Nevertheless, all of the phases in the research programme have been subjected to criticism, as has the interpretation of the findings (M. Rose, 1988). See also UNANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES OF SOCIAL ACTION.

References in periodicals archive ?
Research Review: attention bias modification (ABM): a novel treatment for anxiety disorders.
Compared with those who received sham stimulation, the healthy volunteers who received active stimulation showed greater modification of their attention bias in the direction encouraged by the training.
Yair Bar-Haim of Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences and his fellow researchers are pursuing the treatment that uses a technique called Attention Bias Modification (ABM) to reduce anxiety by drawing children away from their tendency to dwell on potential threats, ultimately changing their thought patterns.
Some specific topics include: clinical applications to face comprehension impairment, behavioral elements during face processing, attention bias towrd threatening emotional face expressions, and facial emotion recognition impairment in autism.