Are the signs to tidy the kitchenette not working? Try adding eyes.

mind matters, mind, brain, eyes

Is your workplace kitchette perpetually untidy? Are there serial offenders who just won’t comply with the signs stuck up on the wall, on the bench, on the dishwasher? It seems to happen everywhere, and a colleague and I were laughing yesterday as we saw a bunch of dishes on a bench just beneath the instructions telling people:

DO NOT leave your dirty dishes in the kitchette, don’t be lazy. Take them to the main kitchen.”

I kid you not, the first two words are bold + all caps + underlined. It reminded me of a research study that found that pictures of eyes changed people’s littering behaviour, making them tidier.

A group of scientists at Newcastle University, headed by Melissa Bateson and Daniel Nettle of the Center for Behavior and Evolution, conducted a field experiment demonstrating that merely hanging up posters of staring human eyes is enough to significantly change people’s behavior. Over the course of 32 days, the scientists spent many hours recording customer’s “littering behavior” in their university’s main cafeteria, counting the number of people that cleaned up after themselves after they had finished their meals. In their study, the researchers determined the effect of the eyes on individual behavior by controlling for several conditions (e.g. posters with a corresponding verbal text, without any text, male versus female faces, posters of something unrelated like flowers, etc). The posters were hung at eye-level and every day the location of each poster was randomly determined. The researchers found that during periods when the posters of eyes, instead of flowers, overlooked the diners, twice as many people cleaned up after themselves.

So perphaps try adding pictures of eyes to your kitchette signs. To read more about the mechanics of “Neural architecture” and “Gaze detection” and to read about how the studies were designed and conducted go to http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-the-illusion-of-being-observed-can-make-you-better-person

This study is also quoted in Quick and Dirty Tips which has a few more suggestions for office tidiness. Not sure if I agree with all of them (do grown ups need candy rewards?) but sometimes you just gotta try something.

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