The intent of motivational posters is to make people achieve more, or to think differently about the things that they may be learning or doing.
This is not how everyone views such posters, however. Art Petty, for example, in discussing innovation writes that it "cannot be mandated or legislated, and it definitely is not inspired by the corporate motivational poster". CBS News concludes that modern motivational posters "are geared more toward things that need to be done than things that are good to believe".
Motivational posters can have behavioral effects. For example, Mutrie and Blamey, of the University of Glasgow and the Greater Glasgow Health Board, found in one study that their placement of a motivational poster that promotes stair use in front of an escalator and a parallel staircase, in an underground station, doubled the amount of stair use. These studies all support the finding that such motivational posters, placed at the point of decision, can have a behavioral effect, with this effect decreasing back to zero gradually over a period of weeks after the removal of the poster.
Parodies and demotivational posters
Parodies of motivational posters, generally known as demotivational posters, have become an Internet meme. One famous motivational poster features a kitten hanging from a tree branch along with the phrase "Hang in There, Baby!" This has been the target of various reproductions and parodies, such as an appearance on The Simpsons episode "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson" where Marge Simpson notices the copyright date (1968) and comments, "...determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That's kind of a downer." Another reference to the poster is The Onion's 1999 "In the News" photograph titled "Inspirational Poster Kitten Falls To Death After 17 Years".
- Sarah Edwards (2003). "School linking: an introduction". Citizenship in Action. Heinemann. ISBN 9780435808044.
- Art Petty and Rich Petro (2007). Practical Lessons in Leadership: A Guidebook for Aspiring and Experienced Leaders. Trafford Publishing. p. 191. ISBN 9781425122492.
- "The Zeitgeist of Motivational Posters". CBS News. Published Sept. 27, 2013.
- Nanette Mutrie and Avril Blamey (2000). "Encouraging stair walking". British Journal of Sports Medicine 34 (144): 144. doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.2.144.
- Stuar J.H. Biddle and Panteleimon Ekkekakis (2005). "Physically active lifestyles and well-being". In Felicia A. Huppert, Nick Baylis, and Barry Keverne. The Science of Well-being. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780198567523.
- "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "In the News, June 23, 1999 Issue 35-24". The Onion. Retrieved on March 2007.
- Alyson Ward (2005-04-02). "Posters like this are designed to inspire you to do your very, very best in the workplace. But do they really just inspire you to strangle the well-intentioned manager who put them on the wall?". Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas: The McClatchy Company). pp. 1F.
- A. L. Marshall, A. E. Bauman, C. Patch, J. Wilson, and J. Chen (2002-12-01). "Can motivational signs prompt increases in incidental physical activity in an Australian health-care facility?". Health Education Research 17 (6): 743–749. doi:10.1093/her/17.6.743. PMID 12507349.
- M. S. Dolan, L. A. Weiss, R. A. Lewis, A. Pietrobelli, M. Heo, and M. S. Faith (2006). "'Take the stairs instead of the escalator': effect of environmental prompts on community stair use and implications for a national 'Small Steps' campaign". Obesity Reviews 7 (1): 25–32. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00219.x. PMID 16436100.
- Ross E. Andern C. Franckowiak, Kim B. Zuzak, Elise S. Cummings, Susan J. Bartlett, and Carlos J. Crespo (November 2006). "Effects of a culturally sensitive sign on the use of stairs in African American commuters". Sozial und Präventivmedizin/Social and Preventive Medicine (Birkhäuser Basel) 51 (6): 373–380. doi:10.1007/s00038-006-5095-5.
- Jacob A. Hyman (2003-08-22). "Computer Vision Based People Tracking for Motivating Behavior in Public Spaces" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Stuart Biddle and Nanette Mutrie (2001). Psychology of Physical Activity. Routledge. pp. 305–306. ISBN 9780415235266. – a summary of two more studies, in 1980 and 1985, of the impacts of motivational signs at the point of decision on stair use