The science of fun

The science of fun

Have you ever done something and time seemed to slip away, you were so absorbed in your task that Armageddon itself couldn’t distract you? You were so “in the zone” that failure didn’t even cross your mind and action and awareness became one thing.

That, my friend, is called the state of flow, and it’s the feeling we strive to create with our courses.

"Fun" is one of those hard things to quantify, like attraction and happiness, but some experts have done their best.
One psychologist, Mihali Csikszentmihalyi (shik-zent-mih-hal-yeh) took a particular interest in the way people seem to get totally engaged in some activities and not others. He coined the term “flow” to describe this state of mind.

He described it as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

So what makes for a state of flow? It’s hard to say, since the human mind still mystifies scientists, but there are some common factors between “addictive” activities like gaming, coding, and rock climbing:

  • Your skill level is met by an equally challenging task.
  • There are clear, incremental goals throughout.
  • Your actions are met by immediate feedback (success/failure)

We would love nothing more than for people to be able to enter a state of flow when learning something new. That’s why we take a lot of care to design courses that challenge the mind. That’s why they start off with easy questions, getting incrementally harder. That’s why at the office we race each other to mark answers as quickly as possible, if not immediately – fast feedback fosters flow!

You might chuckle at our masthead which says “We’ll make learning as fun as playing your favourite game” but that really is our goal. We haven’t got it perfect, yet, but one day, mark my words, you’ll be addicted to learning.

In the meantime, head over to 42courses.com and sign up if you want to earn your first badge. We’re not trying to get you hooked or anything, promise :)

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