Are Motivational Posters A Waste Of Paper?

For most working from an office, even a home office, motivation is something that comes and goes to varying degrees throughout a long work day. Sometimes fading when assigned to a task that you really do not enjoy, but then picking back up once again when you work upon a project you strongly believe in.

A motivational poster is simply a piece of wall art designed to use inspirational images, quotes or text to consciously or sub-consciously encourage a person to give more care or effort towards a task.

Motivational posters have been the subject of several scientific studies over the years, each demonstrating that both on a conscious and sub-conscious level the presence of a motivating posters does encourage a change in behaviour that can be beneficial to reaching goals.

What is the evidence that motivational posters work?

Several studies have looked into the effects of motivational posters and their influence at provoking a change in our behaviour. One study from Sydney, Australia looked at a campaign aimed at promoting exercise as a way of improving health.

Posters were designed and distributed with the intention of motivating people to use stairs instead of the elevator in several high rise office buildings.

Unfortunately on this occasion the posters failed to make an impression upon workers’ habits with hardly any change in the number of employees who used the stairs. The general and impersonal nature of the posters was one reason highlighted by the study designers as a reason for the lack of behaviour change.

In another study in Newcastle, England a busy university canteen was adorned with posters showing images of human eyes accompanied by a message that discouraged littering.

The effect of posters on this occasion was clear. and significantly less litter was dropped by canteen users.

The study surmised that this co-operative behaviour was clearly motivated by the feeling that canteen users were being observed.

Curiously the actual text based messages upon each of the ‘eye’ posters was shown to have very little influence over how canteen users behaved.

Finally in a University of Toronto study, context specific motivational posters were compared against general motivational posters in a call centre. 

Workers who were sub-consciously exposed to work specific posters were significantly more productive when compared to colleagues exposed to a more general motivational poster.

Seeing a goal being realised (on this occasion a poster showing call centre workers having success) made it far more likely an outcome was realised in real life.

These findings aligned with goal setting theory, the theory behind developing an action plan to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal.

What type of motivational poster works best?

Exactly what type of motivational poster would be best depends entirely on the surroundings and the goals attempting to be achieved. It wouldn’t be a good idea for example for employers wishing to train up a loyal workforce to hang a poster that motivates employees to take the leap and start their own small business.

Encouraging start-ups via a motivational poster would however be entirely appropriate in a scenario where people are looking for employment. At university campus or a state employment office for example.

Whilst we’ve seen that context specific art can be effective at providing motivation it is also important to acknowledge the associated benefits of decorating your workspace with motivational posters.

Including a large and clear image that is personalised to your own goals appears to be the most important factor.

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