Later work, involving covert observation of working practices, showed how the pace and organization of work is regulated by informal social norms and organization among workers. These studies led Mayo to claim that workers are not primarily motivated by economic factors but by management styles and informal work organization. Enhanced productivity therefore depends on management sensitivity to, and manipulation of, the ‘human relations’ of production. Critics point to methodological defects in the Hawthorne experiments and question the key conclusion drawn from them—that economic factors are less important in determining productivity than the degree of psychological satisfaction which work provides. The best discussion of the studies is still to be found in John Madge's The Origins of Scientific Sociology (1963). See also EXPERIMENTER EFFECTS.
The effect on a person's or a group's behavior of knowingly being under observation is called the "hawthorne effect." It is commonly positive or beneficial, because knowing that they are being observed encourages people to behave or perform at a higher level of efficiency than they might otherwise. The name derives from a study on employee satisfaction at the General Electric manufacturing plant in Hawthorne, Illinois, where the effect was first observed.
John M. Last
(see also: Halo Effect; Observational Studies )