“Face It ‘Til You Make It” was part of the original set of Eureka Room programs that attempted to use brain science and the results of psychological studies to make people more mindful/happy/relaxed.
Though the Mindfultainment series has been shelved, parts of this program have been salvaged and turned into a program that has yet to be named.
Warning: Spoilers. If you plan on visiting the Eureka Room, I suggest you not read this until afterward.
I had read somewhere that the simple act of smiling can trigger your brain to release some chemical resulting in you actually feeling better. You might be familiar with Laughter Yoga, a practice invented by family physician Madan Katari from India. The idea is simple: Start fake laughing with a bunch of people and that will trigger the same chemicals in your brain as real laughing. In my experience with laughter yoga, it often became real laughing due to the ridiculousness scene of everyone doing clearly insincere and overdramatic laughing: slapping their knees, pointing at random objects, losing their mind over nothing in particular, just the empty air. Usually the leader of the group (the laughter yogi) has some exercises and games to play which help things move along.
From humble beginnings of telling dirty jokes in the park, it has grown into over 5,000 Laughter Yoga groups around the world, including 200 in the United States. You can find out more on Laughter Yoga International’s website.
The idea that smiling and laughing insincerely could be beneficial combined with the absurd look of it all made these ideas great candidates for a Mindfultainment/Eureka Room program.
So what does a program like this look like? I decided a few things from the start:
- We’ll use a generic yellow happy face to prompt people to smile.
- We’ll put the words “ha ha ha” on the screen for people to know when to laugh.
I knew these two features would get old pretty quickly so I created some variations.
The smiley face would switch between various forms: neutral, smiling, extra smiling, surprised (eyebrows up mouth in an “oh” form). Sometimes the head would rotate to the left or right. Sometimes there would be multiple smiley faces you’d have to choose from.
The words “ha ha” would sometimes be “ho ho” or “he he”. The tone of the laughing “ha ha”s would vary based on placement on the screen. Higher up meant people were asked to laugh in a higher pitch. Lower on the screen was lower pitch. Sometimes you would just see one big “HA” or “HE” on the screen, which was a prompt to just say it once.
The length would be about 5-10 minutes because this might be pretty exhausting. I would give breaks between vague “levels”. As per my usual, it would start off pretty basic and work its way up to a ridiculous fury of near-impossibleness. The colors and music would reflect the heightening challenge.
One of the things I like to do to make a program more fun and effective is to align the actions a participant makes to the beat of some music. I don’t know if there’s any science on it, but it seems to really pull you in more when you are landing actions on a downbeat. There’s something about music that allows us to synchronize to an experience pretty quickly. If the music has a repeatable beat and something happens consistently on the same beat of a measure, most people quickly learn to do it at that instant.
For example, there’s beat going and I show the word “HA” on the screen. A participant knows that they are supposed to say “HA”. If I place that “HA” text exactly on the downbeat, the person can’t react in time to hit the downbeat and they are slightly behind. But if I put the “HA” before the downbeat with enough space that they can read it, know what to do and say it, the’ll almost always choose the downbeat to say it. Because it is way more satisfying.
Let’s call the amount of time between showing the HA and the person saying “HA” the “reaction time”. I haven’t tested this, but I suspect that if I put the HA after the beat, 0.1s after the beat or 0.2s after the beat (or any window that isn’t too close to the next downbeat) the “reaction time” is pretty consistent. But I bet if I put the HA before the downbeat those same intervals, then people will unconsciously adjust their reaction time to hit the downbeat because there is a psychological reward for hitting that downbeat.
There’s a whole genre of games called rhythm games . Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution are probably the most well known ones.
I painstakingly aligned the prompts right before downbeats (but not ON the downbeats) and (at least for n=1) it seemed way more satisfying.
Results and Status
Like any editing job you end up watching certain parts over and over and over to see how they worked. I would test it on myself and smile and laugh to make sure things were doable, fun, not over or underwhelming. And I can say that whenever I worked on this program it lifted my spirits. It might be working. Or might be me going crazy after listening to my own voice say “ha HA” over and over again for hours and hours.
So the program finished and I showed it to maybe a dozen people.
Overall most people did not like it. I should mention that it was made for 2D and I kind of just tacked on the 3D parts of it when the Eureka Room went 3D. So it it may have seemed kind of tame to people who had seen my other programs. So I’m not sure if the reason for the dislike was the mechanics or expectations or both.
Some people liked the face-making but not the tone-matching. And vice versa.
I thought the tones was going to be “higher risk/bigger ask” but people who liked it liked it. And they weren’t all the singing types. The face making one was really loved by one 8-year-old girl, so maybe I could take it in way that was more for kids if the grownups don’t like it.
What’s Next? I want to build out each part of it a bit more, especially for the 3D environment and test it again. I also want to see how kids respond to it versus adults. Currently, I don’t think this is as strong a candidate as it was, so it is not receivign high priority for development.