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Was There Really a Hawthorne Effect in the Original Hawthorne Studies?


John List and I stumbled onto the original, never-analyzed data from the original illumination experiments done at the Hawthorne Plant. These studies gave rise to what is now known as the Hawthorne Effect.

We find that there actually wasn’t a Hawthorne Effect in the original data, at least not of the sort that you read about in virtually every introductory psychology textbook, where it is claimed that the workers’ output went up every time the lighting was changed, whether the change was to make the lights brighter or dimmer.

The Economist magazine has a nice piece on it.