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200 Words: Praise

We chronically underestimate the influence we have on those around us.  In a study conducted in 2020, the psychologists Erica Boothby and Vanessa Bohns found that we tend to misjudge how good a simple compliment will make the recipient feel.  And connected to this, we tend to believe that others pay less attention to us than they really do; Boothby calls this the Invisibility Cloak Illusion because of how we freely observe others, but then don’t feel like we’re being observed ourselves.

The point is that influencing people is far easier than we think.  Mostly, our students are fairly inscrutable during lessons and they’re usually pretty swift to disappear when the bell goes.  One of the quirks of the profession is that we actually receive relatively little direct feedback.  However, that doesn’t mean that our words and actions go unnoticed.  Indeed, far from it.  Thanks to the work of Boothby and Bohns, we can sure of two things:

  1. Students are highly receptive to praise, assuming it’s sincere and deserved
  2. Giving praise is a powerful way of shaping positive norms and influencing student behaviour

Thanks for reading –


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