Are Motivational Posters A Complete Waste Of Paper?

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

A great deal of my friends and colleagues have chosen to decorate their home office walls with large prints of citiscapes or wilderness landscapes overlayed with motivational quotes.

You know the like, sometimes inspirational sometimes cringeworthy phrases intended to motivate you to realise your full creativity and productivity potential.

My friends swear by the extra drive and uplifting feeling that these posters provide them.

When their spirit to work is lacking a quick one minute mental break whilst being reminded of your goals is “like a breath of fresh air for the soul”, apparently.

Bless them, they try their very best to make sure that I too can share in the benefits this simple life hack can provide (I’ve had two posters gifted this past Christmas alone!).

The problem is… I am devoutly scientific in approach and have trouble embracing anything that might carry an air of woo woo without some serious justification.

Surely I can’t be moved closer towards my work goals improved by just having some motivational posters amongst my home office decor. Can I?

Read on below as I share some rather surprising findings.

What counts as a motivational poster?

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.

It’s worth mentioning here that there are several types of motivation, the most common of which are:

  • Intrisic motivation where the drive is fed by internal factors such as feeling rewarded, satisfied or happy. This is the class of motivation that posters aim to encourage.
  • Extrinsic motivation is the type of motivation which is brought on in exchange for expected rewards such as payment.

Broadly, motivation can be described as the factors that drive or provide the “energy” required for a person to work towards a goal.

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.

Is there any evidence that motivational posters actually 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. 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 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 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.

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

Further benefits of adding a motivational poster to your office walls

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.

So What's The Verdict?

Despite my initial scepticism it appears the evidence points towards motivational posters absolutely having the potential to make you more effective at working towards your goals.

If you are working or studying from home and have the freedom to design your own office it’s well worth the while hanging a motivational poster or two upon your walls.

Now where did I put those old Christmas presents?

Chris Dosser

Chris Dosser

Co-Founder of Eden Indoors

Enjoys sharing solutions to problems encountered whilst building and improving his own home office over the past 8 years. Environmental graduate with a love for biophilic design at home and houseplants. Obsessive about making information easier to understand and simpler to digest.

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