Abandoning Easy: Persuasive Technologies & Designing for Difficulty

| By Editorial Staff

Exercise Intervention by Elevator – The Case for Persuasive Technologies

The next time you push an elevator button, make sure it takes you to the floor you expected. If the founders of Pleasurable Troublemakers have anything to say about it, elevators of the future will let you out on the floor below the one you pushed the button for.

Their theory: if you can’t motivate yourself to exercise, maybe an elevator can.

Pleasurable Troublemakers is a company founded by psychologists and inventors. Using what they describe as “persuasive technologies,” they build into their products minor annoyances that might motivate people to make better decisions.

A company that asks people to intentionally add aggravation to their lives sounds like one that won’t see its first anniversary, but Pleasurable Troublemakers designs products to be annoying, just not too much. The goal of its inventions is to give people the nudge they need towards good behavior.

Pleasurable Troublemakers tries to impose the kind of motivation we subject ourselves to, like buying jeans that are too small, hoping we’ll be inspired to lose weight.

Here are a few product designs the company hopes will inspire better decision-making:

StepsThe Intervator: the hacked elevator that drops you off one floor below your destination. It’s designed to encourage elevator-riders to get a little exercise.

Balance: the desk lamp that you can only turn on when your smartphone is stored in its base. It forces you stop texting if you want to keep the light on.

Keys Hung UpReMind: an anti-procrastination wall-mounted calendar loaded with pucks representing tasks to be performed by a certain day. If a task doesn’t get done on time, a puck falls to the floor, acting as a visual reminder that you didn’t meet your goal.

Keymoment: the wall-mounted key holder with two hooks – one for your bike key and one for your car key. Grab the bike key, and you’re out the door. Grab the car key and the key holder drops the bike key on the floor, giving you the chance to reconsider your mode of transportation for the day.

Caterpillar Power StripNever Hungry Caterpillar: a power strip that wiggles around, acting as a visual reminder that even devices that are turned off are still drawing electricity. It’s telling you to unplug devices that aren’t in use.

The Chocolate Machine: a candy-filled container you put on your desk. It automatically dispenses a piece of wrapped chocolate every hour, giving you the choice to eat the chocolate or put it back in the container. A counter registers the number of times you exercise some discipline by putting the chocolate back. Based on the principle of “Ego Depletion,” the Chocolate Machine is designed to build the self-control muscle by presenting a temptation over and over again.

Dog On BackThe Pleasurable Troublemakers team believes that minor inconveniences can motivate more mindful, if not better, behavior. The challenges designed into their products aren’t hard to overcome – if you know that pushing the elevator button for 6 only gets you to 5, you can always push 7. Choice is not taken away from you. You are just reminded that you can continue to do things the way you’ve always done them or take an action that will help you feel good (like rolling over and scratching your back on the grass).