Gregory Walton is a professor at Stanford who has studied the effects of belonging on behavior. In one of his experiments, Walton found that when college students believed they shared a birthday with another student, they were more motivated to complete a task with that student and performed better on the task. He found the same effect with four and five year olds.
In another study Walton put two people in a room. One was a study participant and the other was part of the experiment. Walton told the participant that they had the same birthday as the other person in the room. When the other person jogged in place and raised his or her heart rate the participant’s heart rate went up too, even though he or she was not jogging in place, as long as Walton had established a connection (i.e., the same birthday). Walton concluded that it’s easy for people to take on the goals, motivations, emotions, and even physical reactions of people whom they feel even minimally connected to.
In other research Walton found that when people feel they are working with others as a team to reach a goal, they are more motivated to achieve the goal, even without any extrinsic reward, than if they are working alone. They work harder and longer at the task, become more absorbed and perform better.
You can persuade people to work harder and to work together if you have them interact with other people and point out to them two things: that they are connected to the other people and how they are connected.
What do you think? Have you found this to be true?
Here’s a reference for the Gregory Walton studies:
Walton, Gregory M., Geoffrey Cohen, David Cwir, and Steven Spencer. 2012. “Mere belonging: The power of social connections.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102(3): 513–32. doi: 10.1037/a0025731.
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