The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Classic Experiments’

The Situational Effects of Experimental Situations

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 31, 2010

Situationist PodcastFor some interesting listening, here is an excellent BBC podcast looking at the 1920s experiment in a Chicago factory that gave rise to the phenomenon known as the Hawthorne Effect.

From the BBC MindChangers Series:

Hawthorne Effect: (30 minutes)

Claudia Hammond presents a series looking at the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century.

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In the 1920s, at the enormous Western Electric Hawthorne Factory in Cicero outside Chicago, management began an experiment which was to improve the working life of millions and give rise to a phenomenon that anyone planning a psychology experiment would have to take into account in their design.

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Keen to improve productivity at a time when the telephone industry was growing and Western Electric was building the components for all the telephone exchanges in the United States, management decided to see whether working conditions affected production. But the initial ‘illumination studies’ were inconclusive; whether lighting was increased or decreased to no better than moonlight, productivity increased. Whatever the intervention, it seemed to promote faster work.

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Confused, management turned to economists from Harvard Business School to design a more complex study. So, in April 1927 five women were removed from the factory floor and put in a separate room – the relay assembly test room. For the next five years, as they assembled the complex relays they were minutely monitored. Their working conditions were regularly altered, but whether breaks were included or removed, their working day lengthened or shortened, their productivity continued to rise.

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The study improved working conditions throughout the factory, as breaks were introduced for all, but it also gave rise to a phenomenon known as The Hawthorne Effect, which has to be taken into account in the design of any experiment – the mere fact that subjects know that they are being studied may alter their behaviour.

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Yet The Hawthorne Effect is widely questioned. How can an experiment using such a small sample – five women, two of whom were changed during the study – have given rise to such a ubiquitous theory?

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With the help of the Hawthorne Museum in Cicero, the Baker Library archive and Professor Michel Anteby at Harvard Business School, Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale Business School who met the original participants in the study back in the 1970s, and Mecca Chiesa of the University of Kent, Claudia Hammond re-examines the classic Hawthorne Studies.

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To review a collection of  Situationist posts discussing other classic experiments, click here

Posted in Classic Experiments, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Revisiting Arden House and the Situation of Aging

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 20, 2010

Situationist PodcastFor those of you who would like to do some interesting listening, here is an excellent podcast featuring Situationist friend Ellen Langer.

From the BBC MindChangers Series:

Arden House: (30 minutes)

Claudia Hammond presents a series looking at the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century.

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She re-visits Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin’s 1976 study, conducted in a New England nursing home, Arden House.

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When the two psychologists set up the experiment so that residents on two floors of the 360-bed home for the elderly would experience some changes in their everyday life, they had no idea that they were introducing factors which could prolong life.

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While residents on both floors were given plants and film shows, only those on the fourth floor had the opportunity to control these events: choosing the plant and looking after it themselves, and choosing which night of the week to view the film.

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Eighteen months later, when Langer and Rodin returned to the home, they were astonished to discover that twice as many of the elderly residents in this ‘choices’ group were alive, compared with the control group on the second floor, who had been given plants that the staff tended, and were told which was their film night. It appeared that taking control made you live longer.

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These findings fit in well with the work on learned helplessness in dogs which Martin Seligman had done in the late 1960s, and on Langer and Rodin’s own studies on the perception of control.

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Claudia Hammond meets Ellen Langer, now Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and hears about Arden House and the work she has gone on to do on what she calls ‘mindfulness’. She visits Arden House, which is still a nursing home, and is shown around by current administrator Joanne Scafati.

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For a ssmple of relate Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Time and Mind,” The Situation of Health and Aging,” “Time and the Situation of Marshmallows,” and “January Fools’ Day.”

Posted in Classic Experiments, Life, Podcasts, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Solomon Asch’s Famous Compliance Experiment

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 16, 2009

Solomon AschFrom Wikipedia:

Solomon Asch . . . . became famous in the 1950s, following experiments which showed that social pressure can make a person say something that is obviously incorrect.

This experiment was conducted using 123 male participants. Each participant was put into a group with 5 to 7 “confederates” (People who knew the true aims of the experiment, but were introduced as participants to the naive “real” participant). The participants were shown a card with a line on it, followed by another card with 3 lines on it labeled a, b, and c. The participants were then asked to say which line matched the line on the first card in length. Each line question was called a “trial”. The “real” participant answered last or penultimately. For the first two trials, the subject would feel at ease in the experiment, as he and the other “participants” gave the obvious, correct answer. On the third trial, the confederates would start all giving the same wrong answer. There were 18 trials in total and the confederates answered incorrectly for 12 of them, these 12 were known as the “critical trials”. The aim was to see whether the real participant would change his answer and respond in the same way as the confederates, despite it being the wrong answer.

Solomon Asch thought that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong, but the results showed that participants conformed to the majority on 37% of the critical trials. However, 25% of the participants did not conform on any trial. 75% conformed at least once, and 5% conformed every time.

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To read a sample of  related Situationist posts Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiment . . . Today,” “Gender Conformity,” “The Situational Effect of Groups.”

Posted in Classic Experiments, Illusions, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

 
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