The Fun Theory

The theory of fun is based on the idea that people are more motivated to change behaviors that are harmful to health and the environment if they have fun. Fun therefore seems to have great power in shaping behavior.
The Fun Theory

Until recently we lived in a world where it was believed that punishment was one of the cornerstones of education. To educate meant to limit, and at the same time, to teach the person to limit himself. Over time, all of this has been widely questioned and the theory of fun clearly shows us that in some cases there are more effective methods.

As human beings, we come into the world with highly self-centered role models. To learn to live in society, we must gradually give up the idea that we are the center of everything and that all our desires must be satisfied.

The theory of fun states that people are more willing to take actions that we could define as “annoying” if it involves a fun experience.

In other words, a positive stimulus can translate into a great incentive for the acquisition of norms or behaviors that are desirable for society.

Pensive boy sitting at the window

The origin of the theory of entertainment

The theory of fun was born in 2009 in non-academic environments. Volkswagen has sponsored an experiment to prove its effectiveness. Halfway between marketing and social responsibility, the automotive giant wanted to demonstrate that social and individual change is possible as long as it is appropriately encouraged.

Volkswagen thus launched its Fun Theory , or Theory of Fun, claiming to inspire people to live a fuller life. And at the same time, of course, to consolidate the image of your brand. A series of social experiments were carried out with the aim of observing people’s reactions.

All the experiments conducted presupposed a choice. There were two options: one that leaned towards comfort and habit, and the other that required a little effort, but also involved a different and fun experience. Let’s see what happened.

The first experiment

The first social experiment conducted was as simple as it was revealing. It took place in a very busy place: the most popular metro station in Stockholm, Sweden. The dilemma arose when faced with the use of an escalator alongside a traditional one. The question was: how to get people to use the traditional ladder to get them to get some exercise?

The solution, with the creation of a so-called piano scale was a very fun idea. A piano keyboard was painted on the traditional scale, preparing each step for the emission of a note to be played while climbing, like a real musical instrument.

The result was surprising. 66% of passersby chose to make a little effort and use the piano scale, compared to the usual average for which 95% of people use the escalator. This has shown, in principle, that the theory of fun works.

Staircase with piano to demonstrate the theory of fun

Other experiments

The second experiment conducted to test the theory of fun was even more successful than the first. There are still many people who throw waste on the ground without any qualms. Hence the idea of ​​starting a new experiment, also in Stockholm.

Trash baskets with a special sensor have been installed. Whenever someone threw waste in the bin, a cartoon-like sound was made when something falls off a precipice. People found it a lot of fun and not only threw their own waste, but also collected the waste around it and threw it in the bin.

In just one day, the collection of waste had almost doubled. It had once again been shown that the theory of fun could be very useful. However, until now, this theory has only been used as a marketing resource in the business field. Furthermore, it is based on short-term experiments, with no guarantee that the effects will last over time.

The big question that remains open is whether this theoretical approach could work equally if applied to more relevant contexts and if it would be able to generate sustainable behavioral changes in the long term. We do not have data on this yet. Despite this, it served to ascertain that the game remains a factor of extraordinary persuasive power. Novelty and fun are therefore powerful enough to encourage us to be better.

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