Saturday, February 18, 2023

Hawthorne effect

Never mind the fashionable accusations: this article from McGill is interesting.

From 1927 to 1932 the Hawthorne Works tried varying conditions in its factories to see what would improve morale and increase productivity. They found that any sort of changes made for brief increases in productivity, presumably (so said our textbook) because workers felt that somebody was taking an interest in them.

So goes the story. Or one variant thereof. It turns out that "A 1989 study of 86 studies that tried to isolate this Hawthorne effect found no evidence for it." That I hadn't heard before.

The raw data were found on fiche not long ago, and re-analyzed. There were several different studies, most quite sloppy. One tidbit: lighting changes were done on Sunday when nobody was at work. Was the Monday productivity increase similar on other Mondays? Not noted.

One study involved women taken off the main factory floor for study in a smaller and more easily modified room.

They were less supervised than the women in the main room and they were consulted with regards to how their conditions would be changed. Some of them were interviewed fifty years later: they had been working so hard because they did not want to be returned to their former department, where their supervisor was said to be very harsh. Also, when asked what they had liked about being in the test room, one of them immediately said, “We made more money in the Test Room.”


Assistant Village Idiot said...

This shows up repeatedly in the replication crisis, of numerous other explanations being overlooked and not checked for.

The Mad Soprano said...

Wasn't this the same company that rented the EASTLAND for their annual picnic in July of 1915?