Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit a Motivating Operation for Chess

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Dr. Todd Ward

In behavioral science, we have a concept known as a motivating operation.  It is something that increases the incentive value of something else, and makes it more likely that we will seek those things out in the future – a reinforcing effect and an evocative effect in technical jargon. When such motivational effects occur through higher-level language processes, we call these augmentals.

And it appears The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix is having such an effect.

In case you don’t know, The Queen’s Gambit is a series centered around Elizabeth Harmon, a female chess genius that takes the male-dominated chess world by storm, played by actress Anya Taylor-Joy.  Insider noted that her “poise and Netflix’s portrayal of high-stakes competition have brought glamour to a sport with very little mainstream attention.”

Below is what that new attention looks like, as noted in Insider:

  1. Google Trends shows a sustained jump in searches for chess after release.

2. eBay reported a 273% increase in searches for chess sets.

3. reported spikes in traffic to its live streamed chess matches.

4. Leon Watson, who runs London’s oldest chess club Battersea, noted a surge of interest from women.  Insider quoted him as saying “we’ve probably had more inquiries from women in he last couple of weeks than we have had in the last five years.”

Has the Queen’s Gambit motivated your chess playing?  Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at [email protected]

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