Personalising possessions boosts performance – study

by Brett Henebery02 May 2017
New research suggests that giving personal touches to your belongings at work may help you perform better.

Several studies featured in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Marketing Research found that students worked and played better when using personalised items.

Here is how it worked.

The participants, who did not expect any benefit from these activities, were asked to decorate items to portray aspects of themselves. Such items included customised darts, pens and beer-coasters.

When the participants threw the customised darts, deciphered anagrams with the customised pens and played a flipping game with customised beer-coasters, their performance improved by 25%.

Interestingly, the improved performance was more pronounced when the participants were personally invested in succeeding, and when the decoration “embodied a task-relevant part of their identities”.

For example, decorating a coaster with a drawing of a competitive athlete will help you more in a flip game better than drawing a picture of people holding hands.

“If there is an alignment between the goal and the identity, then you are more motivated to pursue this goal because you can affirm this part of the identity,” Martin Schreier, one of the study's authors and a professor of marketing at the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria, told the Scientific American.

Interestingly, when the participants performed well with their customised coasters, it strengthened that aspect of their personal image – as if they and coaster had become one entity.
So, Schreier says, first make sure your gear suits you functionally, then put yourself into it expressively.

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