Following is the full text of YouTube star and former NASA engineer Mark Rober’s talk titled “The Super Mario Effect – Tricking Your Brain into Learning More” at TEDxPenn conference.
About a year ago, I asked my YouTube followers to play a simple computer programming puzzle that I made with a buddy.
The object of the puzzle was to get your car across the maze by arranging these code blocks that represent typical computer programming operations, such as if-else statements and while loops.
Once you thought you had a good code, you would hit Run, and your car would move based on the commands you had in the program.
I asked my YouTube followers to play it because I said I wanted to prove that anyone from any background could learn to code. 50,000 of them took the challenge and attempted the puzzle.
But the truth was that I didn’t actually care about proving that anyone could learn to code. What they didn’t know is that we actually randomly served up two slightly different versions of the puzzle.
In one version, if you hit Run and you weren’t successful, you didn’t lose any of your starting 200 points. We showed you this message.
[That didn’t work. Please try again.]
However, in the other version, if you hit Run and again you weren’t successful, we showed this slightly different message:
[That didn’t work. You lost 5 points. You now have 195 points. Please try again.]
…stating that you lost five points from your starting 200 points. That was the only difference.