The experiements in detail

The experiements in detail - The experiements in detail See...

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The experiements in detail See pages 126-136 The following sections outline some of the main experiments which were held at the Hawthorne works. The intention here is to give more detail of the experiments than are in the main textbook. However, if you what the complete account then we suggest reading Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939). The illumination experiment The aim was to investigate the impact of light on employee performance. They conducted three experiments each trying to eliminate the errors of the previous research and trying to get closer to a scientific method. The first experiment set a base line working under daylight and then attempt to manipulate the light. However, they found ‘output bobbed up and down without direct relations to the direct relation to the amount of illumination’ (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939/64: 15). The second experiment set a control group for whom light was between 16 and 28 foot candles (a unit of light measurement) and a test group who worked under three levels 24, 46 and 70 foot candles. Unexpectedly the ‘test resulted in very appreciable production increases in both groups and of almost identical magnitude’ (ibid: 16). The third experiment tried to control the conditions of light even more by giving the control group a constant level of 10 foot candles whereas the experiment group started at 10 foot candles and then reduced the level of light 1 foot at a time until they reached 3 foot when ‘the operatives protested … they were hardly able to see what they were doing’ (ibid: 17). At every reduction in light production levels increased and even when they said they could not see what they were doing efficiency remained high. A further informal experiment occurred where two ‘capable and willing operators were selected’ and asked to work at 0.006 candles the equivalent of ‘an ordinary moonlight night’. ‘Even with this very low intensity of light’ they reported ‘the girls maintained their efficiency’ (ibid: 17). Beginning to think the light factor was ‘more “psychological” than real’ they got an electrician to pretend to change the light bulbs but in reality it remained the same. The Relay assembly test room From the initial series of experiments the researchers concluded that light was only a minor factor in impacting performance and greater skill was needed in isolating the factors that shape human behaviour. This led to the next experiment the relay assembly room . They decided to work with a small group of 6 women isolated from the rest of the organization.
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The group of women were tasked with putting together 35 small parts, held together by 4 small screws to make a telephone relay. Dealing with small parts it was highly skilled but also ‘highly repetitive, as each operator assembled approximately 500 relays each day’ (ibid 20).
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