*(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
These days when I go for a run with my mask on, I find myself falling out of a habit that I had had pre-pandemic: smiling at other runners and walkers on the trails. With the mask covering my mouth, a smile seemed silly.
However, neuroscience researchers say–No, it’s not silly. In fact, a smile, even if it is unseen, can have a positive effect on our emotions and on those people whom we are smiling at.
As our campuses slowly open up to more face-to-face contact with colleagues, students and others we come across while still wearing masks, we’ll have opportunities to increase a feeling of connectedness and well-being with just a little effort behind our masks.
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