Mon, Feb 23, 09
From Scientific American:
Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. They gave all the students written instructions for a regular exercise routine, but they used a simple yet ingenious method to make the how-to instructions either cognitively palatable or challenging: some received instructions printed in Arial typeface, a plain font designed for easy reading; others got their instructions printed in a Brush font, which basically looks as if it has been written by hand with a Japanese paintbrush—it is unfamiliar and much harder to read.
The findings were remarkable. Those who had read the exercise instructions in an unadorned, accessible typeface were much more open to the prospect of exercising: they believed that the regimen would take less time and that it would feel more fluid and easy. Most important, they were more willing to make exercise part of their day.
Just to be sure, University of Michigan researchers repeated the experiment with a different activity, cooking:
Again they used easy-and hard-to-read typefaces, but in this case the instructions were for making a Japanese sushi roll. After the volunteers had read the recipe, they estimated how long it would take them to make the dish and whether they were inclined to do it. They were also asked how much skill a professional cook would need to prepare the sushi roll.
The results were basically the same as before.
And they say design doesn’t affect human behavior as much as designers claim!*
Can you think of other ways in which the brain can be tricked to alter the direction of (seemingly) unrelated activities?