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Hawthorne effect

Definition of Hawthorne Effect

(noun) When an individual’s behavior changes in some way due to their awareness of being observed.

Example of Hawthorne Effect

  • When workers’ productivity improves when being watched by their boss.

Hawthorne Effect Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: haw·thorne ef·fect

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Usage Notes

  • Plural: Hawthorne effects
  • Named after a productivity study conducted in the late 1920s and early 1930s at the Hawthorne Works, a plant of Western Electric located outside of Chicago, in the United States. The study is referred to as the Hawthorne Experiment or the Hawthorne Study.
  • Also called:
    • experimenter effect
    • observer effect

Related Quotation

  • “Variously defined, the central idea [of the Hawthorne effect] is that behavior during the course of an experiment can be altered by a subject’s awareness of participating in the experiment” (Jones 1992:451).

Related Video

Additional Information

  • Adair, John G. 1984. “The Hawthorne Effect: A Reconsideration of the Methodological Artifact.” Journal of Applied Psychology 69(2):334–45. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.69.2.334.
  • Adair, John G., Donald Sharpe, and Cam-Loi Huynh. 1989. “Hawthorne Control Procedures in Educational Experiments: A Reconsideration of Their Use and Effectiveness.” Review of Educational Research 59(2):215–28. doi:10.2307/1170415.
  • Lee, Raymond M. 2011. “‘The Most Important Technique …’: Carl Rogers, Hawthorne, and the Rise and Fall of Nondirective Interviewing in Sociology.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 47(2):123–46. doi:10.1002/jhbs.20492.
  • Mahoney, Kevin T., and David B. Baker. 2002. “Elton Mayo and Carl Rogers: A Tale of Two Techniques.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 60(3):437–50. doi:10.1006/jvbe.2001.1839.
  • Mason, Emanuel J., and William J. Bramble. 1997. Research in Education and the Behavioral Sciences: Concepts and Methods. Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark.

Related Terms


Jones, Stephen R. G. 1992. “Was There a Hawthorne Effect?” American Journal of Sociology 98(3):451–68. doi:10.1086/230046.

Works Consulted

Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Cite the Definition of Hawthorne Effect

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “hawthorne effect.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 24, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

hawthorne effect. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “hawthorne effect.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“hawthorne effect.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 24 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/>.