Hawthorne effect

(noun) When a person’s awareness of being observed changes their behavior in some way.

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

Audio Pronunciation: (Haw·thorne ef·fect)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: Hawthorne effects
  • Named for a productivity study conducted in late 1920s and early 1930s at the Hawthorne Works, a plant of Western Electric located outside of Chicago, Illinois, United States.
  • Also called:
    • experimenter effect
    • observer effect

Related Quotations:

  • “Variously defined, the central idea 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).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



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