Hawthorne effect

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

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

Audio Pronunciation: (Haw·thorne ef·fect)

Download Audio Pronunciation: Hawthorne effect.mp3

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 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.

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, Diane. 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.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

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).

How to Cite the Definition of Hawthorne Effect

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “hawthorne effect.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 17, 2019 (http://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

hawthorne effect. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://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 June 17, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“hawthorne effect.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 17 Jun. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/hawthorne-effect/>.