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Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge blog points to an interesting project, sponsored by Volkswagen, called The Fun Theory.  The idea beyond The Fun Theory is that beneficial behaviors (such as recycling and exercise) can be encouraged simply by making those behaviors, well, more fun.  The video below is one example where the goal was to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

The project appears to include a contest-based crowdsourcing element to encourage people to come up with their own inventive way to nudge people towards optimal behaviors through fun.

One question that I have is to what extent are these tactics sticky. There seems to be a “novelty curve” whereby people are initially intrigued and engaged by something new and fun. However, as time goes by what was once new and intriguing becomes old and stale. Will the musical staircase above be able to maintain the same distribution of stair-to-escalator use over time? Or will people revert to convenience over fun? More than likely the distribution will settle into a new equilibrium that is different than before the staircase was altered, but tactics like these will likely need to include a ‘refreshing’ element, whereby the nudging mechanism is altered or alternated in order to prevent the suboptimal behavior from gaining ground or becoming dominant again.

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