Yes, Compliments Can Improve Performance

Credit to Janice Wood

Want someone to perform better in the workplace or classroom? Compliment them.

That’s the takeaway from new research from a team of Japanese scientists who say that an area of the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person is rewarded, whether the reward is cash or a compliment.

The research team recruited 48 adults, who were asked to learn a specific finger pattern of pushing keys on a keyboard as fast as possible for 30 seconds.

Once the volunteers learned the finger exercise, they were divided into three groups. One group included an evaluator who would compliment participants individually, while a second group watched another participant receive a compliment. The third group involved individuals who evaluated their own performance on a graph.

When the participants were asked to repeat the finger exercise the next day, the group who received direct compliments from an evaluator performed better than participants from the other groups.

According to the researchers, this indicates that receiving a compliment after exercising stimulates the individual to perform better afterwards.

“To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money,” said National Institute for Physiological Sciences Professor Norihiro Sadato, who led the study.

“We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. There seems to be scientific validity behind the message ‘praise to encourage improvement.’ Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation.”

The research, funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Sciences Research Grant


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