Hawthorne Experiments

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 4: Human Relation Model and Hawthorne Experiments

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Hawthorne Experiments

The Hawthorne studies can be conveniently divided into 5 major parts. Each part was the outgrowth of the preceding one. The 5 studies are referred to as – 

  1. Illumination Experiments
  2. Relay Assembly Test Room Study
  3. Mass Interviewing Programme
  4. Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment
  5. Personnel counselling 

Part I - Illumination Experiments (1924-27)

These experiments were performed to find out the effect of different levels of illumination (lighting) on productivity of labour. Five experiments were undertaken in it. The brightness of the light was increased and decreased to find out the effect on the productivity of the test group. 

  1. Experiment 1: Light intensity was varied from low to high in 4 levels.
  2. Experiment 2: Two groups, one controlled group with constant illumination and another test group with 3 different illumination intensities.
  3. Experiment 3: Only artificial light was used and daylight was eliminated 
  4. Experiment 4: Intensity of light was made equal to ordinary moonlight.
  5. Experiment 5: Conducted in 2 sections, firstly light bulb changed daily telling workers that intensity is increased and later decreased although intensity was same. Later, intensity was decreased with telling them.  

Conclusion: It was found that there is no consistent relationship between output of workers and illumination in the factory. Surprisingly, the productivity increased even when the level of illumination was decreased. It was concluded that factors other than light were also important. 

Part II - Relay Assembly Test Room Study (1927-1929)

Under these test two small groups of six female telephone relay assemblers were selected. Each group was kept in separate rooms. From time to time, changes were made in working hours, rest periods, lunch breaks, method of payment etc. They were allowed to choose their own rest periods and to give suggestions. Output increased in both the control rooms. 

The results of this work led to the coining of the term Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect), which refers to the tendency of individuals to perform better simply because of being singled out and made to feel important (when employees change their behaviour due solely to the fact that they are receiving attention or are being observed).

Conclusion: It was concluded that social relationship among workers, participation in decision-making, etc. had a greater effect on productivity than working conditions.


The relay assembly study began in 1927 and continued till 1932. In the meantime Elton Mayo was called to determine and interpret the Hawthorne experiments. 


Part III - Mass Interviewing Programme (1928-1930)

21,000 employees were interviewed by Elton Mayo and his assistant Roethlisberger for over a period of three years to find out reasons for increased productivity. The basic aim of this study was to determine the relation between employee morale, work, working conditions and supervision and thus to study human relations or attitudes concerning human relations. 

Conclusion: It was concluded that productivity can be increased if workers are allowed to talk freely about matters that are important to them.

Part IV - Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment (1932)

This experiment was conducted to obtain information about social groups within the company. A group of 14 male workers in the bank wiring room were placed under observation for six months. A worker’s pay depended on the performance of the group as a whole. The researchers thought that the efficient workers would put pressure on the less efficient workers to complete the work. However, it was found that even though they were paid on daily output basis, they did not raise the output. Individual production remained fairly constant over a period of time. 

Conclusion: Hence it was concluded that the group established its own standards of output, and social pressure was used to achieve the standards of output.

Part V – Personnel Counselling

Under this, officials from the personnel department were deputed to different departments to have free interactions with the employees to gauze their opinions of personnel issues. This led to improvement of the behaviour of the employees. It shows improvement in three fields:

a. Personal adjustments: Employees showed personality changes and freedom from anxiety etc.

b. Supervisor employee relations: Personnel counsellor helped in making supervisors see their problems

c. Employee management relations: Helped in forming policies that resulted in less friction between management and worker.

Probably the most significant results of these studies are the facts that workers are affected by factors outside the job to an even greater extent than by those on the job itself, and that they organize into informal social groups.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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