Motivation affected by environmental cues

Outlook and mindset while waiting could be affected by environmental cues. This is according to a study by experts at Columbia Business School and the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, which found being "in-system" can help increase initiation and persistence in completing tasks.

The research revealed that queues and barriers used in banks and airports can serve as virtual boundaries dividing those who are in-system and outside the system and that there are some ways to encourage people to see through the process of waiting and reach their goal by altering these obstacles.

In one experiment, researchers placed queue guides at different distances from a cash point, which made those waiting in the line with the barriers ending nearer the machine feel in-system earlier than the individuals in the other line.

The study suggests subtle changes and environmental cues can help increase motivation and willingness to achieve goals, influencing cognition and the manner in which the task is then completed.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Michael Apter comments:

"Psychologists are becoming increasingly aware of the way that people 'read' their physical environment, using whatever cues they can find to divide up space in a meaningful way, such as: private-public, dangerous-safe, alien-familiar, instrumental-terminal. Thus reversal theory suggests that we often enclose space physically in ways that suggest being cut off from real danger and therefore able to play and enjoy our arousal - examples of this are sports stadia, casinos and theatres.

"The research reported here, using queue guides, is a brilliant demonstration of a general meaning-making effect and its motivational consequences."

share