Applied Behavior Science for Health and Happiness
Building Competence in the Bathroom
Building Competence in the Bathroom

Building Competence in the Bathroom

GETTINGWithout getting into the gory details, let it be understood that bathrooms used by men may at times be less than sanitary. A well-known intervention for improving the cleanliness of the area around and underneath urinals is the addition of a fly sticker. The sticker provides an area for men to aim, which increases the percentage of waste down the drain and decreases how much is on the floor. The fly sticker is estimated to improve men’s aim by as much as 80%. As Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge, memorably said, “Men evidently like to aim at targets.”

The urinal fly made its debut in Amsterdam, and was extended to Terminal 4 at JFK Airport in New York, operated by the Dutch Schiphol Group (although the previously linked article suggests that the flies in those urinals may now be gone after a renovation–can any male travelers confirm?). For people who want to try urinal flies at home (moms of small boys?) can purchase their own stickers.

When is a fly not a pest? When it keeps your floor clean.
When is a fly not a pest? When it keeps your floor clean.

My absolute favorite version of the urinal fly hails from Japan, like many great inventions. The thermal urinal fly is a sticker that is thermally activated. As it warms up, the fly gradually disappears, providing evidence that the gentleman using the toilet or urinal has been successful in his aim. One of the reasons I love this particular iteration of the urinal fly is that it is a clear example of supporting competence. It offers men clear feedback on their performance, which encourages improvements.Self-determination theory in the wild!

The urinal fly was just brought to my attention again by Ken Jennings, Jeopardy champion and surprisingly hilarious Tweeter. Not only did his recent tweet (pictured) highlight the always delightful topic of peeing on a jellyfish sting, it reminded me of my favorite competence-supporter. Thanks, Ken!

Oh, @kenjennings.
Oh, @kenjennings.