By Kevin Freeborn
July 7, 2014
It’s difficult to dispute the fact that pop star Miley Cyrus’s appearance last August on the MTV Video Music Awards attracted worldwide attention. People who already knew her as a sweet Disney child star now perceived her in a new way as grownup sex symbol, and people who had never heard of her were taking interest. Her “twerking” performance made headlines all over the world, and was very controversial. It got people paying attention, and now she’s a household name in the pop music industry.
The entertainment news headlines reminded me of a somewhat controversial statement made by Ben Chapman, assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, during his appearance at the GFSI Consumer Goods Forum when he blurted: “Handwashing signs in restrooms don’t matter.” Can you imagine?
Chapman went on to add that “washing hands matters” and that nobody even notices the handwashing sign after awhile. Chapman referenced research done by Kareem A. Zaghloul and others (2009) that the element of surprise plays a key role in getting people to change their behavior. Still, many health departments require handwashing signs in washrooms – so don’t take them down. But to Chapman’s point, the more attention you can draw to the poster, the more likely it helps to effect behavioural change.