People are more likely to wash their hands after using the toilet when they have been shamed into it, a new study claims.
The research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at responses to electronic hygiene messages displayed in UK service station toilets.
Handwashing is the cheapest way of controlling disease but less than one third of men and two thirds of women wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet, the study led by Robert Aunger showed.
A quarter of a million people were counted using the toilets and their use of soap was monitored by on-line sensors. Only 32 percent of men washed their hands with soap whilst women were twice as good, with 64 percent washing their hands.
A variety of messages, ranging from 'Water doesn't kill germs, soap does' to 'Don't be a dirty soap dodger', were flashed onto LED screens at the entrance of the toilets and the effects of the messages on behaviour were measured. 'Is the person next to you washing with soap?' was best overall, showing how people respond to whether they thought others were watching.
There were intriguing differences in behaviour by gender, with women responding to reminders, while men tended to react best to messages that invoked disgust, for example 'soap it off or eat it later'.