For those that don’t know the Economist is a fantastic newspaper. Not limited to economic news the Economist provides a synopsis across many disciplines of current topic research and findings. Often there is a section on Psychology and as a tribute to the Economist in my few short blogs, I will cover some key research covered in recent editions.
Most I/O psychologists are familiar with the Hawthorne effect, a 1924 study conducted by America’s National Research Council to examine how shop floor lighting affected workers productivity. The key finding was that rather than lighting having an effect, the act of being experimented upon changed a subject’s behaviour. The data from the illumination experiments had never been rigorously analysed and were believed lost, recently however, the data has been discovered and reanalysed. Contrary to the description in the literature, there was no systematic evidence that levels of productivity in the factory rose, whatever changes were implemented. Rather, the changes in behaviour were due to days of the week with output always highest on a Monday which was also the day when changes were implemented. Much of psychology is folklore and most data sets are simply never revisited. How many findings in psychology that are taken as ‘golden rules’ simply are the result of a historical misinterpretation of data?