Sure, you know by now that praising employees goes a long way when it comes to job performance. But you may be surprised at just how powerful a kind word can be. 

In a recent study conducted by Japanese scientists, researchers found that people tend to perform a task better after receiving just a single compliment.

In the study, 48 adults were trained to push keys on a keyboard in a sequential pattern as fast as possible. After training took place, the participants divided into three groups according to whether they were complimented for their performance, complimented for another participant’s performance or were not complimented at all.

When they were asked to complete the finger-tapping exercise the following day, researchers found that those who were complimented after their training performed significantly better on the exercise than the other groups did.

As it turns out, there may be a neurological basis for why praise tends to boost performance. According to the study:

Present findings suggest that praise functions as “social reward” that induces the dopamine transmission in the striatum, resulting in an enhancement of the motor skill consolidation.

Of course, the study does not provide evidence for improvements beyond motor skill tasks. Whether praise can enhance performance in complex work-related tasks is still left to be determined.