Who Will Climb the Piano Stairs?
It feels as if the whole world is suddenly enthralled with the potential of nudge-y incentives: using “choice architecture,” as the nudge-masters Thaler and Sunstein put it, to encourage behavior that is good for both individuals and societies. A great many of these initiatives will fail, for behavior is harder to change than most smart people assume. But there already have been, and will continue to be, successes as well.
Here’s the latest example: in Stockholm’s Odenplan subway station, the staircase has been retrofitted to resemble giant piano keys, which produce real sound, to encourage commuters to climb the stairs rather than ride the escalator. According to this video — which seems to be part of a Volkswagen marketing initiative, though it’s unclear — it’s been a raging success.
Stockholm has seen rising obesity rates, especially among young girls, and has tried some other anti-obesity nudges as well. How will the musical stairs perform?
It’s a clever idea, to be sure, but the skeptic in me wonders:
- Once the cameras have gone away and the novelty wears off, will people still climb the stairs — especially since it’s probably more musically fun (and a lot easier) to descend than to ascend?
- Just as people who already count calories may be the only people who pay attention to calorie counts, will only fit people take the piano stairs?
- What happens after the first lawsuit, when some commuter takes a nasty tumble while playing “Chopsticks” or trying to land a resounding fifth?
(Hat tip: Gabe Audick)