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Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect or viewing effect) is where individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behaviour in response to their awareness of being observed.

The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger, when analysing earlier experiments from 1924-32 at the Hawthorne Works (a factory outside Chicago). The original study, which was designed to investigate the effect of different lighting levels on workers’ productivity, suggested that the experience of being a research subject per se could lead to productivity changes, irrespective of the lighting level.

This has important implications for market research, where the experience of being viewed, or even of being researched, has the potential to alter the participant’s feelings about the subject under discussion.

Synonyms, Acronyms and Abbreviations

  • Observer Effect
  • Viewing Effect

Related Terms


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