What is the Hawthorne Effect?

Hawthorne Effect definition

As a general term, the Hawthorne Effect encapsulates the belief that observation of a phenomenon changes it. In academic settings, this translates to individuals improving or changing behaviour when they know they’re being studied.

In the business environment, the Hawthorne Effect suggests that organisations can motivate employees and improve their perceptions of the working environment by raising awareness of issues and expressing concern than by actually taking action.

The Hawthorne Effect has attributed criticism for a wide variety of reasons. Richard Nisbett, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Michigan, has referred to it as a ‘glorified anecdote.’

A related term is demand effect, whereby individuals create preconceived notions of the end-goal and purpose of a particular activity and adapt their behaviour and attitudes to fit these notions.