Hawthorne Experiments – Illumination Experiments, Mass Interviewing …

Hawthorne Experiments


The Hawthorne plant of the General Electric Company, Chicago was manufacturing telephone system bell. It employed about 30,000 employees at the time of experiments. There was dissatisfaction among the workers and productivity was not upto the mark. In order to find out the real cause behind this, a team was constituted led by Elton Mayo, Whitehead and Roethlisberger and company representative William Dickson. The aim was to study the relationship between the physical working conditions and the productivity. The entire experiment was conducted in four phases:

1. Illumination Experiments (1924-1927)

Experiments to determine the effects of changes in illumination on productivity.

2. Relay Assembly Test Room Experiments (1927-1928)

Experiments were conducted to determine the effects of changes in hours and other working conditions on productivity.

3. Mass Interviewing programme (1928-1930)

Conducting plant wide interviews to determine worker attitudes and sentiments

4. Bank wiring observation Room Experiments (1931-1932)

Determination and analysis of social organization at work.

1. Illumination Experiments

Illumination Experiments were undertaken to find out how varying levels of illumination i.e. the amount of light at the workplace (a physical factor) affected the productivity.

Hypothesis: Higher the illumination, higher the productivity.

Experiment: A group of workers was chosen and placed in two separate groups. One group was exposed to varying intensities of illumination. This group was named experimental group as it was subjected to experimental changes. Another group was called controlled group as it continued to work under constant intensities of illumination. The researchers found that as they increased the illumination in the experimental group, both groups increased production. When the intensity of illumination was decreased, the production continued to increase in both the groups.   The production in the experimental group decreased only when the illumination was decreased to the level of moonlight. Thus it was concluded that illumination did not have any effect on productivity but something else was interfering with the productivity. Therefore another phase of experiments was undertaken.

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