Illuminating studies on illumination studies
January 5, 2010 11:19 AM Subscribe
A series of studies conducted at GE's Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois in the 1920s remain some of the most important in social science, with a lasting impact on the working lives of almost everybody. Before the Hawthorne Experiments, the approach to work was to treat humans like machines, optimizing their movements and time. But the researchers in Cicero discovered that any change in the workplace, even dimming the lights, increased productivity, because the plant workers reacted to being studied. The "Hawthorne Effect" launched a management revolution, suggesting that worker's feelings and attitudes might actually be important. Except, according a new paper by the author of Freakonomics, the results of the Hawthorne studies "proved to be entirely fictional."
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