Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Endgames Statistical Question

The Hawthorne effect

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 04 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:d8262

Rapid Response:

Re: The Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect claims there is improved performance attributable to observation of the effects of an intervention, regardless of what that intervention is. The study reported improved productivity with both increased and decreased lighting, and indeed after any intervention.

However, in a study as reported in The Economist 4 June 2009, the effect of changes was measured on a Monday when other data from non-study periods showed productivity always improved. Productivity fell when the study ended, however this was in summer when productivity always fell.

The Hawthowne effect is a myth. However the explanation of the effects of an intervention are often not what is assumed. That will never change.

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 January 2012
Brendon J Smith
Emergency physician
Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital
Eldridge Road, Bankstown, NSW, 2022, Australia