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Change – Using a Carrot Not a Stick

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Tuesday November 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

escalator-pianoCan fun make people exercise more? Can fun make people recycle more? Can fun improve safety? Won’t it be fun to find out? Now through December 15 TheFunTheory.com is sponsoring a contest to prove the concept that fun is the best way to change peoples’ behavior for the better. The site is looking for submissions of ideas and inventions that support the theory that people will change behavior for themselves or the environment–if making the change is fun.

The concept of positive reinforcement has been proven many times over. Pavlov proved it with his dogs, and every parent knows that children respond better to rewards than punishment. So why not apply the concept to environmental and social initiatives?

To inspire more people to take the stairs rather than the escalator at the Odenplan Subway Station in Stockholm, Volkswagon converted a set of stairs into piano keys. The novel concept increased stair use by 66%.

The open question is whether the initial entertainment factor will translate into long-term behavioral changes or will the novelty wear off and passengers revert to using the stairs? Only time will tell. But in the meantime if a little fun and humor can inspire better behavior, even if it is temporary, it’s still a step in the right direction.


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