‘Potty parity’ and the perception of gender-neutral restrooms topic of TED talk

A psychologist’s study of gender-neutral restrooms and a study of the public’s acceptance of was the subject of a TEDxEvansStreet talk given in Florence, SC in September.

Michael Barbera, an award-winning consumer psychologist and strategy consultant for Fortune 50 companies, presented his thoughts in a talk titled, “Potty parity and the perception of shared restrooms,” on Sept. 21.

Barbera stumbled onto this topic when he saw two restrooms, one designated “female” and the other, combined “male” and “gender neutral.”

“I​ ​wasn’t​ ​sure​ ​if​ ​I​ ​was​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​a​ ​social​ ​experiment, but I went along with it.  ​And​ ​I​ ​wasn’t​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​do​ ​the potty​ ​dance​ ​because​ ​of​ ​a​ ​sign,” Barbera told the crowd.  

After researching the subject for behavioral insights regarding shared restrooms, Barbera found none, and decided to design research to test comfort levels, feelings and perception about inclusivity regarding the restroom placard framing.

“We​ ​tested​ ​people’s​ ​willingness​ ​to​ ​use​ ​and​ ​their​ ​comfort​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​separate​ ​restroom​ ​doors​ ​that were​ ​each​ ​labeled​ ​as​ ​a​ ​specific​ ​gender​ ​and​ ​gender​-​neutral,” he said.  “Females​ ​weren’t​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​use​ ​the​ ​restroom​ ​that​ ​did​ ​not​ ​specifically​ ​mention​ ​their​ ​gender​ ​on​ ​the​ ​door. 

“Then,​ ​there​ ​were​ ​the​ ​males,” he said. “We​ ​were​ ​extremely unlikely​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​another​ ​gender’s​ ​restroom.”

The research suggests an alternate restroom placard design based upon the perceptions of the participants.  It also suggests acceptance by encouraging public restroom operators, business operators and policy makers to change the default restroom placard design to a design that is accepted by the majority of users and consumers.

“We​ ​know​ ​that we’re​ ​not​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​do​ ​the​ ​potty​ ​dance​ ​because​ ​of​ ​sign,​ ​but​ ​how​ ​likely​ ​are​ ​we​ ​to​ ​make​ ​judgments because​ ​of​ ​a​ ​sign?​ ​And​ ​since​ ​there​ ​isn’t​ ​a​ ​universal​ ​answer,​ ​is​ ​it​ ​possible​ ​to​ ​design​ ​an​ ​improved​ ​potty experience​ ​from​ ​the​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​the​ ​restroom​ ​door?” Barbera asked.

Several studies are underway to test the comfort and inclusivity of non-traditional bathroom placards within the LGBTQ community. Barbera Solutions will soon release the results of the subsequent studies.

To view the TEDxEvansStreet Parity, Perceptions, and the Restroom presentation video visit: https://youtu.be/lUfUMt7suaE

About Michael Barbera

Michael Barbera is an award-winning consumer psychologist and strategy consultant for Fortune 50 companies. He is a business psychologist who is involved in both practical and academic endeavors. His areas of practice are consumer behavior, consumer emotions, social psychology, decision-making, brand management, marketing, and long-term business strategies. Michael is currently employed as the CEO of Barbera Solutions. His clients can be found on the Fortune 50 list, ABC’s “Shark Tank” and Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing.” In 2015, the White House recognized Michael for his contributions to entrepreneurship. This work includes development and validation of consumer emotions, consumer behavior, product placement, consumer interaction and business growth strategies                       

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