Compliments Make Us Work Harder


Flattery photo

Flattery will get you everywhere -- according to a new study from the University of Tokyo. Japanese scientists have found that those who receive compliments strive to succeed.

The research, which was lead by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences, found that the same part of the brain, the striatum, is activated the same way when we are paid cash as when we are paid a compliment. When the striatum is activated we tend to perform better.

In the study, 48 adults were asked to learn a specific keyboard sequence, performing it as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Then participants were divided into three groups. In the first group, evaluators paid each participant a compliment individually. In the second group, participants watched another individual receive a compliment. And in the third group, individuals evaluated their own performance. 

When the test was performed again, those in the first group that had received the compliment individually did better than the other two groups. According to the study: "[P]articipants who received praise for their own performance showed a significantly higher rate of offline improvement relative to other participants when performing a surprise recall test of the learned sequence."

According to Professor Norihiro Sadato of Science Daily: "To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. 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."

People that receive compliments work harder. Those paying the compliments may feel the benefit as well because sincere compliments make us feel good. This is just further proof that when people feel valued they tend to work harder. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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