Theory of Fun

Theory of Fun
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The Theory of Fun

The principle behind the Theory of Fun is that the easiest way to change people’s behavior is to do the actions with fun.

In 2009, advertising agency DDB Stockholm created an initiative on behalf of car manufacturer Volkswagen. The company came up with the “Fun Theory,” conducting three experiments to see whether people might choose to change behavior and do something based on how much fun it was to do, such as recycling, throwing away trash or taking stairs versus an escalator.

In one instance, a set of stairs next to an escalator was decorated to look like piano keys with accompanying notes for each step a person took while traversing the stairs. The experiment found 66% more people chose the stairs than usual.

In another, a trash bin with sound effects when people deposited litter collected more trash than nearby bins.

Though these were part of an advertising campaign rather than a scientific experiment, the results indicate people may be more inclined to perform a task such as taking stairs instead of an escalator if it appears to be fun.

The Fun Theory is essentially a form of operant conditioning, a type of learning whereby an individual’s behavior changes due to the consequences felt. Psychologist B.F. Skinner coined the term operant conditioning in 1937.

The most famous example of operant conditioning is the Skinner Box. Essentially, when a rat or small animal is placed in a box and its behavior is observed during trials, where it is either rewarded (food) or punished (a quick zap).

See also  Drive Theory

All three experiments by Volkswagen (the stairs, the bottle bank, the bin) as well as having a function also called attention to themselves.

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