Monthly Archives: April 2020

4th Free ESL Reading Unit:  Handwashing and Motivation (Surprising pre-coronavirus research)

Handwashing

 (This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Several years ago, long before the coronavirus pandemic, researchers found that restaurant workers and hospital staff members were very negligent about washing their hands. This article discusses a clever study that was conducted to find a way to reverse this trend by comparing positive and negative messages.  The results from the study can give us some interesting insights into how we might best motivate people in general.

Excerpts from paragraphs 2 and 11

2 We expect doctors and nurses to be aware of how important it is to wash their hands after they have examined or helped a patient.  They understand that if they don’t, they could spread a disease from one patient to another.  Surprisingly though, a researcher found that only 39% of hospital workers washed their hands properly.  That is almost the same as the 38% of restaurant workers who do.

 11 In sum, the researchers found that using a positive approach with the electronic board was much more effective than the negative signs about spreading disease.  Every time the staff members washed their hands, they received immediate positive feedback.  This positive feedback triggered a pleasure signal in their brains which they enjoyed getting.  In other words, they tended to repeat this action in order to experience that pleasure signal.  After a while, it became a habit, and they continued to do it even after the electronic boards were removed.

Article & Study Guide for Handwashing and Motivation

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