Hawthorne Effect

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 10/12/2005

I like to use strong mental models in interacting with the world around me. Sometimes, it’s the notion of spinning plates, sometimes it’s the 80/20 rule, and sometimes it’s the weakest link in the chain. Occasionally, it’s a famous psychology experiment, such as Pavlov’s Dogs and Condition/Response. And I often times find myself struggling for this particular famous experiment where the experimenters adjusted the lighting level on a factory floor, finding increased performance whether they made it brighter or dimmer. The point was that the subjects of the experiment, knowing they were being observed and that the experimenters were looking for a change, they performed better under any condition. So, I finally googled it today, and attached a name and formal term to this notion. It’s the Hawthorne Effect, and participant expectancy. In this case, there is a confounding variable that you cannot control for, and which ruins the validity of the experiment. I make this most mostly just as a convenient way to teach and remind myself of what this principle is called. Now, I’ll be able to use it in casual conversation much more easily. Another great use for blogging—familiarizing ones self with a topic by having to research it simply to write about it for ones own edification. I wonder if there a term for that? Anyone remember snigglets?