About fifteen years ago, a US researcher carried out several experiments on the post-it. This little piece of colored paper can change the way our interlocutors perceive our message. Thus, it has a powerful psychological impact.

Serious psychological powers

The Post-it brand gave its name to a small self-adhesive sheet of paper removable to detach from a small block. Massively marketed in 1980 in the United States, it is often used to make little notes to yourself or to leave a message for someone else. Its main advantage is its ability to stick everywhere without damaging or dirtying the surfaces. Now, this seemingly insignificant little piece of paper would have serious psychological powers. Randy Garner, professor at Sam Houston University in Huntsville (United States), performed several experiments that were published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in 2005.

As part of his first experience, he was looking for a way to persuade participants to return a questionnaire to him using his university’s internal messaging system. Composed of five pages, it was a rather painful document to fill out. The first group received the raw questionnaire (control group). For the second group, a message was described on the document asking the participant to fill it out. As for the third group, its members received the same questionnaire accompanied by a post-it with the same message. According to the results, 78% of participants in the “post-it” group returned the questionnaire, against 48% for the “written message” group and 36% for the one who received the raw questionnaire.

8064134850 9a39463163 c - the surprising ability of the "post-it" to persuade
Credit: Luigi Mengato / Flickr

Very meaningful experiences

For his second experiment, Randy Garner sent blank questionnaires to the first group and accompanied by a blank post-it to the second. The last group received a questionnaire with a post-it containing a message. The results are clear: 69% of members of the first group returned the questionnaire against 43% and 34% for the second and third groups. Randy Garner concluded that the post-it itself had an impact on behavior, not just the personalized note. A final experiment showed that the questionnaires containing a post-it were returned faster than the others. In addition, these included more comments, which proves that the participants took more time to answer the questions.

Kevin Hogan, a specialist in influence and persuasion techniques, spoke about the post-it in a Harvard Business Review publication on February 22, 2021. The expert claimed that this piece of paper brings together several powerful behavioral mechanisms. Let us quote his ability to contrast with the decor by occupying the space, giving an impression of disorder pushing our brain to want to get rid of it rather quickly. In addition, the post-it is personalized in many cases and most importantly, attracts attention. Finally, it implies a request or an exceptional type of request giving its recipient a sense of importance.