Guys like to aim. Why at flies?

NPR reports on the fly-in-the-urinal phenomenon. Why flies?

Keiboom in Amsterdam says the original fly idea was proposed almost 20 years ago by Dutch maintenance man Jos Van Bedoff, who had served in the Dutch army in the 1960s. As a soldier he noticed that someone had put small, discrete red dots in the barracks urinals, which dramatically cut back on “misdirected flow.”

Two decades later, he proposed to the airport board of directors that the dots be turned into etched flies. According to Keiboom, Van Bedoff decided that guys want to directly aim at an animal they can immobilize. The ability to use one’s natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing is the key, he explained. Guys, he felt, can always beat flies. That’s why flies are so satisfying.

Is that the answer?

Berenbaum, the entomologist, says she’s not convinced. More than a hundred years ago in Britain, bathroom bowls also sported insect images, she says. Back then, however, the favored target was not a fly, but a bee. And bees have stingers. It seems that men in the 1890s were willing to take more imaginative risks when peeing.

“Fly guy” Doug Kempel sells both flies and bulls eye targets, and says the flies are more popular.

2 Responses to “Guys like to aim. Why at flies?”

  1. Pohanginapete Says:

    The bee image, long used used in British urinals, probably began as an in-joke — the genus of the honeybee is “Apis”. It wouldn’t have mattered that the joke would have been known to only a few people: the urge to aim seems well ingrained.

  2. Mike Gamble Says:

    This is just one of many examples of successfully applying nudges to produce socially desirable behaviors. Volkswagen promotes social nudging at its website Three excellent short videos demonstrate how people can be encouraged to: (1) exercise by using the stairs instead of an escalator, (2) stop littering by installing a “bottomless” trash bin, and (3) recycle glass bottles with an arcade machine.

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