A no smoking sign is usually put up either for health or safety reasons. It is used as a reminder that smoking is not allowed in a given environment.
Ironically the sign ignites a reverse reaction.
Have you ever set out to do something and all of sudden you find yourself doing the very opposite? That’s how it is sometimes with “No Smoking” signs.
Ordinarily we would have thought that constant reminders that smokers are liable to die young may actually attack smokers’ psyche and hopefully convinces them to stop. In reality, it does not always work that way.
No Smoking signs are put up in strategic places especially for safety purposes. They are found in places such as gas stations, Corporate/business premises, hospitals, eateries/restaurants and most public places.
The idea is to stress the dangers of the habit in the area.
While smokers who come across these signs may comply with the instruction for the time being, they look forward to the next available opportunity to smoke.
Psychologists conducted a research and found that a No Smoking sign has an unusual way of making smokers crave for the cigarette.
According to Brian Earp, an Oxford University researcher,
“You get ironic effects when you couple information that people perceive with negation,”
“When I say “don’t think of a pink elephant”, I’ve just put the thought of a pink elephant in your head.”
“A lot of public health messages are framed in a negative way – say no to drugs, don’t drink and drive, no smoking.”
“No smoking signs in particular are everywhere. If you’re a smoker walking down a street you’re likely to pass five or six of these signs in windows or on doors. If you have a chronically positive attitude to smoking this could boost your craving.”
For smokers, No Smoking signs may actually be serving as one of their smoking triggers. Without knowing it, they are prompted to look for the cigarettes once they see the signs.
To back up his theory, researcher Earp gathered a number of volunteers to test their instinctive tendencies towards smoking.
He used the joystick test where the participants areexpected to either move away or move close to smoking imageries. Earp discovered that smokers in the volunteer group moved impulsively towards smoking images and objects like ash trays.
So do we stop putting up anti-smoking signs in corporate premises and flammable environments? Definitely not. Safety is key in these places.
On health grounds, smoking is as harmful to the smokers as it is to inhalers of the cigarette smokes. About 600,000 deaths a year are said to be caused by secondhand smoke.
Quitting smoking which is entirely on a different dimension would have to be an individual’s decision to make.
A similar arguments to the ironic No smoking sign effect is the debate of choosing either sex education or moral instruction in schools.
Sex education in schools was welcomed so as to enlighten teens to the pros and cons of physical intimacy lest they fall prey to youthful exuberance.
During the course of this, they are exposed to a wealth of materials and knowledge. As psychologist Earp suggested, the teen student with a “chronically positive attitude” to sex gets the push for more experiments.
This negation effect is actually one of the fears of conservative parents when it comes to the puberty talks with their teens- the fear of inciting the very opposite of what they hope to avoid.
Another occurrence similar to the ironic No smoking sign effect is the Euthanasia decision of Marieke Vervoort, a Belgian athlete and Gold medalist.
Marieke who suffers from an excruciatingly painful degenerative disease was granted the legal right to take her life as she requested in 2008. The Paralympic all time star till date has not acted on the license. She participated in the 2016 Paralympics.
“I am still alive and still going to enjoy every little, little moment of my life.”
“I signed my papers in 2008. Look now, we are in 2016 and I won yesterday a silver medal. It’s really a wonder. So, I am really happy.”