Psychology, 2010, 1: 159-168
doi:10.4236/psych.2010.13021 Published Online August 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun,
and their Relation to Personality and Biographical
I. C. McManus, Adrian Furnham
Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University
College London, London, UK.
Received May 16th, 2010; revised June 29th, 2010; accepted June 31st, 2010.
This study explores the psychologically neglected concept of fun, a concept that contributes strongly to many people’s
perceptions of quality in life, and looks both at the different types of behaviour that people regard as fun and the atti-
tudes that people have towards fun. Through focus groups and interviews, a 40-item attitude questionnaire was devel-
oped and completed by 1100 people. Factor analysis identified five attitudinal factors, which were labelled as Fun
involving risk-taking”; Fun dependent on fun people”; Fun causing happiness”; Money needed to have fun”; and
Spontaneity as fun. Th ese different facto rs showed differen t patterns of correla tion with demographic and personality
measures. The different types of situation that people described as fun were assessed by asking participants to use an
adjective check-list to de scribe a situation they had found to be fun. Factor analysis identified five types of fun (“Socia-
bility, Contentment, Achievement, Sensual and Ecstatic”), the different types correlating systematically with
participants demography, personality and attitudes to fun. Although often used as if it were a single concept, fun is
actually a complex phen omenon that has different meanings for different types of people.
Keywords: Fun, Big Five, Personality, Demography, Leisure Activities
1. Introduction
If searching for an epithet for the Zeitgeis t of the
opening years of the twenty-first century, then the word
“fun” might well be suitable. Typing “fun” into the
search engine Google in finds no less than 662,000,000
websites (and in comparison, “sex” achieved only
655,000,000 hits; all search engine figures at August
2009). Likewise, finds 607,923 results
for books containing the word (and
found 30,659 titles), with the best-seller for adults be-
ing 301 ways to have fun at work, which perhaps typi-
fies the genre.. The all- pervasive nature of fun in ad-
vanced modern societies such as the United States has
been eloquently summarised by Bryant and Forsyth
“The United States is a society that has become al-
most pathologically obsessed with fun. Fun is a source
of enjoyment, pleasure, amusement, and even excite-
ment. ... Today the pursuit of happiness (and fun) is, in
effect, the national quest, and this goal permeates our
lives. ... The pursuit of fun has a place of dominant
centrality in our daily lives, but fun seeking is not a
compartmentalized area of our cultural fabric. Rather,
it is constituent to almost every aspect of our daily
lives. Fun seeking is very much integrated into our
entire culture and in our daily cycle of life - home,
work, rest, maintenance, and even sleep. Our hedonis-
tic quest has become a deified entity of its own — the
Fun God, as it were.”
Bryant and Forsyth’s phrase “the Fun God” is remi-
niscent of Psychology and the great god fun”, by AE
(“Tajar”) Hamilton [2], a book whose title makes one
aware of the near total absence of serious interest of
psychologists in the nature of fun (although the book
itself has little serious analysis of the concept). A
search of PsycINFO found only 246 pieces with “fun” in
the title, of which the vast majority were mostly con-
cerned with using fun as an intervening or outcome
variable in education, health education or other activi-
ties (e.g. [3-8] or with topics such as helping academics
to write for a general audience [9] or carry out struc-
tural equation modelling [10].
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors
Conceptualising fun is not straightforward, in part
because of the number of synonyms for fun such as
amusement, enjoyment and entertainment. and in addi-
tion every generation seems to produce its own syno-
nyms for fun, such as “far out” or “coo l”. Fun is there-
fore a complex word with multiple meanings referring
to affective and motivational properties, People seek
out fun activities but respond to situations with a sense
of fun, so that fun can be an activity, a state, or a trait.
Fun can be used both as a motivational concept: “to
want to have fun” or a trait concept, “They are a
fun-loving sort of person”, but it is most often de-
scribed as the property of a behavioural repertoire or
social situation: “The dinner party was fun”. The op-
posite of fun is usually thought of as tedious, boring,
dull, or other synonyms. The fact that psychologists
almost never use the word makes it difficult to offer a
definition that clearly distinguishes it from other posi-
tive emotional elicitors, triggers or states. A principle
aim of this study is therefore to try to understand how
lay people understand the term.
The psychological literature on fun is very limited,
and occasionally psychologists have noted that certain
concepts never seem to appear within psychological
studies. Argyle [11] kept a list of such words which
indeed included “fun”. Furnham [12] pointed out that
fortitude was such a word, and until recently this was
also true of stoicism [13]. As far as we know, no psy-
chology text book has fun in its index. Perhaps other
synonyms are used in its place? There seems two lit-
eratures which contain concepts near to that of the fun
concept. The first is from the work on motivation. The
concept of intrinsic motivation captures some of the
theme of fun [14], with the idea that some people are
motivated to do something (usually work) because of
the sheer enjoyment or fun of the activity itself. The
activity or task is its own reward requiring no other
reward such as approval, money or social contact.
Words used in this regard for intrinsic motivation in-
clude hedonistically satisfying, optimally arousing and
deliciously complex [15].
The second area of research where the concep t of fun
might appear is the research on positive psychology
and happiness [16,17]. Early studies on the components
of happiness mentioned various concepts like joy, hope,
and flow, which were often considered to be the emo-
tional side of happiness. For some joy was the opposite
of depression [18]. Equally those working on the emo-
tions have suggested a two orthogonal factor model, for
which the first dimension is happy-sad and the other
excited-relaxed [19]. Various writers have specified
different types of happiness, some more akin to fun
than others. Seligman [20] distinguished between a
pleasant, engaged, good and meaningful life, while
Morris [21] distinguished between seventeen types of
happiness, including cerebral, tranquil and chemical
happiness. Fun appears to be close to Seligman’s
pleasant-happiness and Morris’ sensual, fantasy or
comic happiness [22].
Only in a very occasional set of studies is there a di-
rect confrontation with the nature of fun and its defini-
tion. As can be seen the concept is rarely well defined,
and often a priori theoretical assumptions are made
about its nature. In an extensive qualitative study enti-
tled “How rural low-income families have fun” [23],
the authors consistently use the word “fun” in quotes,
thereby emphasising its theoretical difficulty, while
acknowledging that in their study it is hard to differen-
tiate from leisure, such that “the mothers” definitions
and connotations of the word “fun” might not be con-
gruent with research-based definitions”, after which no
further definition is either provided or emerges from
the grounded theory analysis. Likewise the opening
line of the analysis by Garn and Cothran [24], entitled
“The fun factor in physical education”, also puts fun in
quote marks, saying how “both students and teachers
rate “fun” at or near the top of their lists of goals for
physical education”. After reviewing several studies in
physical education they eventually conclude only that,
“the fun construct is a complex one consisting of a va-
riety of factors ... without a solid conceptual frame-
work”. Similarly, Jackson [25], in an article entitled,
“Joy, fun and flow state in sport”, comparing various
positive experiences associated with sport, comments,
“Fun at first seems a more straigh tforward concept than
joy, especially in sport, where the ter m is used so often.
Everyone knows what fun is, right? But getting beyond
‘sport is fun’ is not easy.” The remainder of that paper
then concentrates almost entirely on flow states, con-
cluding eventually only that, “flow is key to under-
standing the joy, happiness, fun and enjoyment in
sport... Not [though] that flow is the only path to these
experiences”. Finally, Middleton, who has published
on the role of the importance of “academic fun” for
gifted children [26], somewhat begs all the theoretical
questions about the nature of fun when in a later paper
he states at the very beginning that, “throughout this
paper, I use the terms ‘intrinsic motivation’ and ‘fun’
interchangeably. The colloquial term ‘fun’ is better
understood by students and teachers (and researchers),
and carries connotations of positive affect that ‘intrin-
sic motivation’ may not” [27]. This forces fun into the
conceptual mould of intrinsic motivation, while ac-
cepting that that may not be how participants them-
selves understand it. Together these four papers show
the lack of conceptual clarity in the literature concern-
ing the nature of fun, and yet show both the central
relevance of the concept to lay thought and motivation,
and the need to address the concept directly, ra th er than
by assuming that it necessarily relates to some other
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors161
single theoretical concept already described within
psychology such as leisure, flow or intrinsic motiva-
The only (unpublished) study we have been able to
find that asks directly about what experiences are actu-
ally included under the heading of fun, is that of
Slaughter [28] who asks directly about a range of ac-
tivities and makes conclusions both about fun people
and fun experiences, suggesting that a high fun person
is, “is a hedonist--an active, aggressive, impulsive ad-
venturer who does not require intellect or sensitivity to
himself or those around him”, whereas a fun experi-
ence, “is likely to be an Affective or Sensori-Motor
experience and less likely a Cognitive experience. It is
about equally likely to be Cooperative or Solitary in
nature and less likely to be a Competitive activity”.
The present study takes the nature of fun and its poten-
tial variability between individuals, as the central ques-
tion that needs to be asked, acknowledging the poten-
tially multi-faceted nature of the term.
In this paper we wish to describe an exploratory
study of what a large group of adults think of fun and
its nature. The study had multiple objectives, and in the
paper we will describe them in the following order.
Firstly, we provide a taxonomy of the types of activi-
ties or experiences that people include under the head-
ing of fun, and secondly we examine how the various
types of fun experience chosen are related to demo-
graphic factors such as age, sex and social class; to
personality; and to education and particularly to sci-
ence education (and in previous studies we have found
that studying science is associated with different cul-
tural and aesthetic activities and hence it seems at least
possible that they are will also be related to fun [29]).
Thirdly, we assessed how attitudes to fun differ, where
attitudes refers to people’s beliefs about how best to
achieve fun and the extent they seek it our under dif-
ferent conditions, and we then looked at how such atti-
tudes relate to the various background factors. Finally,
we asked how the types of fun and also attitudes to-
wards fun related to participation in a range of cultural
and aesthetic activities that we have studied exten-
sively before, and which are often described as being
done for fun [30]. This is inevitably an exploratory
study, but it is in the research tradition on lay theories
of happiness [31-33], but this time looking at fun.
2. Method
The data in this study were collected as part of a large
undergraduate laboratory class at University College
London (UCL). The class in its present format has now
been running for several years, and studies from pre-
vious years, on other topics, have been published
elsewhere [25,30,34].
2.1 The Lab Class
The class runs for three successive weeks, and intro-
duces students to different research methods for study-
ing attitudes. The topic is purposely only vaguely de-
fined, and often is one with little formal research in the
psychological literature, encouraging students to ex-
plore the richness of the question, and to follow their
own directions. For the January 2008 class the topic
was simply, “Fun”.
The class was split into ten groups of about ten stu-
dents who worked together for three full days over
successive weeks, in conjunction with a demonstrator.
In week 1 students ran small focus groups to explore
the issues and attitudes, and the groups then chose two
interviewees who were likely to be informative about
the issues. The semi-structured interviews were tran-
scribed it in a standard fashion, and students had access
to all interviews carried out by all groups, and they
used those interviews as a resource for writing ques-
tions for the quantitative questionnaire study.
The main part of the questionnaire consisted of a
folded sheet of A3 paper (i.e. 4 A4 sheets), the middle
two pages of which contained 40 attitude questions
written by the students to a pre-defined rubric, each
group providing four questions. The questionnaire was
assembled at the end of Week 2, and each student col-
lected 12 copies which they distributed to participants
(see below). The data were entered into an SPSS data
file which was analysed during week 3. For the present
analysis, only the quantitative data will be considered
although it is important to remember that the breadth
and quality of the attitude questions derives in large
part from the in-depth qualitative research carried out
2.2 The Questionnaire
This consisted of four printed pages. Page 1 contained
eleven standard questions on demographics, education
and social background. Pages 2 and 3 contained the
forty attitude questions written by the students, and
Page 4 contained a specially written question on a fun
situation (see below), a set of twenty questions on par-
ticipation in a range of cultural and aesthetic activities,
which were extended from a set used in our previous
study [30], and a brief measure of the Big Five person-
ality dimensions which we have used in previous stud-
ies [30,34,35], and has three items on each of the five
factors (see
sources/questionnaires for details). Alpha reliabilities
for Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience,
Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were .561, .590,
, .505 and .541, which are comparable to previous
values, and, as we have argued elsewhere, are more
than adequate for surveys with large samples such as
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors
the present one [30,36], where the interest is primarily
correlational. Means (SDs) were 8.40 (2.37), 10.73
(2.16), 10.44 (2.56), 12.08 (1.98) and 10.45 (2.35) re-
2.3 Question on a Fun Situation
This question was written specially for the study, and
began by asking participants to, “Think of a typical
situa tio n when you were having fun. Please describe it
in three or four words”. The question then continued,
“Now, ring any of the [forty-two] words below that
describe your feelings in that situation”, after which
followed the alphabeticised list of adjectives shown in
Table 1. Although original, the questionnaire was in-
spired by previous adjective checklists in other situa-
tions [37-39], and in particular the study of Dubé and
Le Bel [40 ] on the na ture of ple asure.
2.4 Participants
Each undergraduate in the class was asked to find 12
participants who would complete the questionnaire,
and it was said that these should broadly be “students”,
with the term not being rigorously defined, the only
requirement being that respondents were aged 18 or
over, and in some sense were or had been students. A
stratified sampling scheme was used, each undergradu-
ate obtaining completed questionnaires from 3 male
participants who broadly could be regarded as scien-
tists, 3 female participants who were scientists, 3 male
participants who were not scientists, and 3 female par-
ticipants who were not scientists. Apart from the strati-
fication, students in the class were asked to be as
wide-ranging as possible in finding the participants,
with it being emp hasised th at participan ts need not j ust
be from UCL, but could include friends, relations and
colleagues, and they specifically should not be psy-
chology undergraduates at UCL. The intention was
therefore to obtain a large convenience sample for the
purposes of data exploration. There was no expectation
that the sample should be representative of the popula-
tion as a whole, and the present paper should be inter-
preted with that limitation in mind. The data however
are probably adequate for exploring the inter-relation-
ships and correlations between measures, but care
should be taken in the interpretation of absolute per-
centages and means. Although it might be a concern
with our sampling method that some data may have
been fabricated, or that some subjects may inadver-
tently have been included twice, a previous analysis
[30] has shown that not to be the case, and there was no
reason to believe either could be the case in the present
2.5 Statistical Analysis
Statistical analyses used SPSS v13.0.
Table 1. The first column shows the descriptors used for
the fun situation, and the last column shows the overall
percentage of respondents including the descriptor. The
middle five columns show the loadings on the five vari-
max-rotated factors, sorted by size and with loadings less
than 0.2 set as blank. Loadings greater than .4 are in bold.
Descriptors in the questionnaire itself were in alphabetical
1 2 3 4 5
Descriptor Socia-
bility Con-
tentment Achieve-
ment Sensual Ecstatic%
joking 0.678 - - - - 43.8%
laughing 0.602 - - - - 62.2%
talking 0.568 0.231- - - 40.3%
entertained 0.514 - - - - 51.6%
witty 0.489 - - - - 25.0%
spontaneous 0.455 - - - 0.21837.8%
playful 0.455 - - - 0.25843.2%
happy 0.3490.272- - - 71.8%
confident 0.338- 0.227 - - 34.0%
public 0.249- 0.202 - - 12.1%
peaceful -
0.569 - - - 17.4%
warm 0.2350.499 - - - 26.5%
relaxed 0.2830.476 - - - 46.6%
loving 0.2560.463 - 0.256 - 26.3%
caring 0.2200.459 - - - 16.0%
contented 0.200 0.445 - - - 36.4%
blissful -
0.409 - - 0.21215.4%
fulfilled - 0.3800.354 - - 28.6%
stress free0.2980.363- - - 47.9%
private - 0.336- 0.269 - 8.6%
joyful 0.2470.331- - 0.27844.0%
lazy - 0.246- - - 8.2%
focused - - 0.638 - - 18.8%
challenged- -
0.616 - - 22.6%
accomplished- -
0.458 - - 12.0%
absorbed - - 0.448 - - 28.7%
engrossed- -
0.414 - - 17.5%
inspired - 0.2960.403 - - 21.1%
proud - - 0.380 - - 13.8%
nervous - - 0.369 - - 6.9%
fearful - - 0.293 - - 4.9%
amazement- - 0.293 - 0.20015.5%
surprised - - 0.228 - - 9.5%
sensual - - -
0.661 - 9.3%
lustful - - -
0.502 - 8.7%
intimate - 0.318-
0.501 - 13.4%
romantic - 0.243- 0.480 - 10.7%
vulnerable- - 0.231 0.306 - 4.4%
ecstatic - - - -
0.560 20.6%
crazy 0.205- - - 0.487 27.1%
excited 0.234- 0.312 - 0.486 47.7%
energetic 0.282- - - 0.439 47.6%
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors163
3. Results
Questionnaires were completed by 1100 respondents,
of whom 1088 gave their sex (males n = 534, 49.1%;
female n = 554, 50.9%), with an age range of 18 to 78
(mean = 25.5, median = 21, SD = 10.71, quartiles 20 -
25), with 142 (12.9%) of the respondents being aged
over 40. 964 subjects indicated that they were studying
for or had obtained a degree, and the subjects
self-classified subjects according to the 13 categories
used by UCAS, and arbitrarily, but in a similar way to
previous studies [29;30], we classified Medical Science,
Biological science, Physical science, Mathematics and
Engineering as science subjects. On that basis, 38.9%
of respondents (375/964) were studying science.
Social class was assessed on the occupations of each
parent, based on the five-point Registrar-General’s
scale, with class overall defined as the higher of the
two parents’ occupations, scored I = 5, II = 4, III = 3,
IV = 2 and V = 1, so that high scores correlated with
higher social class. Overall, of 1031 respondents, 515
(50.0%) were from social class I, 306 (29.7%) from
class II, 153 (14.8%) from class III, 35 (3.4%) from
class IV, and 22 (2.1%) from class V.
3.1 The Fun Situation and Types of Fun
All but 48 subjects described a situation in which they
had recently been having fun, Of the 42 adjectives de-
scribing the situation, 40 subjects ticked none of them,
and one ticked all 42, and these 41 subjects were re-
moved from further analysis. Table 1 shows the overall
proportion of respondents ticking each of the adjectives.
Factor analysis was carried out using principal axis fac-
toring with varimax ro tation. A scree-slope analysis sug-
gested that there were five factors (the first ten eigenval-
ues being 6.22, 3.33, 2.55, 1.88, 1.37, 1.27, 1.22, 1.17,
1.05 and 1.01), w ith reliabilities of .745, .773, .800, .701
and .764 respectively. The factor structure shown in Ta-
ble 1 is very clear. Scores were extracted for each factor.
To aid in describing the factors, participants were identi-
fied who had a loading of below zero on four of the five
factors, and the descriptions then examined for those
with the highest loadings on the remaining fifth factor.
Fun type 1 can be described as Sociability, with
large loadings on joking, laughing, talking, and
entertainment, with high scorers describing the
situation as “socializing with friends”, “hanging
out with friends”, “enjoy, relaxed, excited”, “Be-
ing with friends”, “out with friends”, “socialising
with friends”, “when I’m with the girls”, “board
game with friends “, “drunken sports night with
friends”, and “out with friends”.
Fun type 2 can be labelled as Contentment, with
its loadings on peaceful, warm, relaxed, loving,
caring, and contentment. High scoring situations
were “gardening”, “just being at home”, “went to
Southampton beach”, “being with people I like”,
“swimming”, “with friend, in fave cafe, study”,
“chatting with mates”, “smiley laughing content”,
“swimming in the sea” and “listening to music”.
Fun type 3 can be labelled as Achievement, with
high loadings on focussed, challenged, accom-
plished, absorbed and engrossed, and contains
some sense of a flow state. High scoring situations
included, “acting in a play “, “playing football
with friends”, “working on my GPS tracer pro-
ject”, “winning in a game”, “horse riding”,
“computer games with friends”, “jamming with
friends”, “when I was creating something “,
“when learning something interesting”, “achiev-
ing a goal”, and “racing, mountain, skis, speed”.
Fun type 4 is labelled Sensual, but might also be
labelled romantic or sexual with its loadings on
sensual. lustful, intimate and romantic. Relatively
few participants scored highly on this factor but
amongst those who did the descriptions were
“having sex” (reported by three participants),
“food and good company”, and “spending time
with my boyfriend”.
Finally, fun type 5 is readily described as Ecstatic,
with loadings on ecstatic, crazy, excited and en-
ergetic. Typical situations were “amusement
parks”, “Exhilarating, exciting, unpredictable,
amusing”, “partying, drinking, watching films”,
“going clubbing”, “clubbing with friends”, “ela-
tion euphoria enjoy”, “clubbing”, “pub/clubbing”,
“visiting night clubs”, and “at a rave”.
3.2 Correlates of Fun Types
Table 2 shows correlations of scores on the five fun
types in relation to demographic factors (age, sex, sci-
ence education and father’s social class), and to the big
five personality factors. Overall women reported more
fun situations involving sociability, and contentment,
and less with achievement, and older respondents re-
ported more fun involving contentment and achieve-
ment, and less sociability, sensual or ecstatic fun. Nei-
ther social class nor a science education related to the
type of run reported. Personality showed several very
significant associations, and considering only those
with p < .001, extraversion was associated with socia-
bility and ecstatic fun, agreeableness with more fun
involving sociability and less that was sensual, and
openness to experience with more fun involving
achievement. Neither neuroticism nor conscientious-
ness showed correlations at the p < .001 level with the
types of fun.
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors
Table 2. Correlates of scores on the five fun types in rela-
tion to background variables and personality. Ns vary from
964 to 1059. Key: * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001. Corre-
lations greater than .1 are in bold
1 2 3 4 5
Fun type Sociability Content-
ment Achieve-
ment Sensual Ecstatic
Female 0.067* 0.084**–0.115*** –0.033 –0.001
Age –0.062* 0.083**0.071* –0.052
education 0.016 0.009 0.036 –0.047 0.030
Social class 0.040 –0.0570.006 –0.035 0.052
Neuroticism 0.028 –0.065*–0.014 0.022 0.097**
Extraversion 0.190*** –0.060*–0.028 0.081**0.253***
Openness 0.053 0.081**0.148*** 0.014 0.054
Agreeableness 0.187*** 0.062*0.016 –0.101*** 0.004
ness 0.040 0.049 0.055 –0.061*0.000
3.3 Attitudes towards Fun
The forty attitude questions were factor analysed using
principal axis factoring, followed by varimax rotation
and factor score extraction. The scree slope suggested
five main factors, with first ten eigenvalues being 4.03,
3.16, 1.95, 1.73, 1.47, 1.39, 1.37, 1.23, 1.12 and 1.09.
The five factors, which had reliabilities of respec-
tively .800, .778, .655, .700 and .725, were identified
as follows:
Fun attitude 1 which was labelled Risk-taking.
Participants with high scores tended to agree with
questions asking, “Are you willing to take risks to
have fun?”, “Would you repeat a certain activity
that carried a health risk in order to have fun?”,
“Can you have fun when you are scared?”,
“Would you consider breaking the law to have
fun?” and “Is an activity more fun if there is risk
Fun attitude 2 was the most difficult to label.
High scorers tended to agree with questions ask-
ing, “Is it important to have a similar personality
as people in order to have fun with them?”, “Is the
presence of other people essential to have fun?”,
“Do extraverted people have more fun than intro-
verted people?”, and disagreed with the question,
“Is it possible to have fun by yourself?”. The main
thrust seems to be on fun as a sociable activity,
dependent on particular types of other people, and
it was therefore labelled Fun people.
Fun attitude 3 was characterised by participants
agreeing with questions that asked, “Is fun one of
the requirements we ought to fulfil in life?”, “Do
you think you need to have fun to be happy?”,
“Does having fun always involve happiness?”,
“Can fun provide you with happiness in the
long-term?” and “Does unhappiness restrict your
ability to have fun?”. Fun and happiness seem
here to be causally related, and the factor was la-
belled Fun causing happiness.
Fun attitude 4 was straightforward, with those
scoring highly agreeing to questions that asked,
“Do rich people have more fun?”, “Do you have
more fun if you spend more money?” and “Do you
think the amount of money that you have influ-
ences how much fun you have?”. This can be la-
belled as Money.
Finally, fun attitude 5 was characterised particu-
larly by answering Yes to the two questions, “Are
unplanned activities more fun than planned ones?”
and “Is spontaneous fun more enjoyable than
planned fun?”. This can be labelled as Spontane-
3.4 Correlates of Fun Attitudes
The five fun attitudes were correlated with the demo-
graphic and personality variables used earlier, and with
the fun types which had been identified (Table 3). For
simplicity, only correlations significant with p<.001
will be con sidered. Fe male partic ipants were l ess likely
to consider risk-taking as important in having fun, as
also were older subjects, who also thought that fun
people were less important. Neither a science education
nor social class related to the attitudes towards fun.
Personality showed strong correlations with attitudes
towards fun. Extraverts saw risk-taking, fun people and
spontaneity as important, whereas while those with
greater openness to experience also saw risk-taking as
important, they also saw both fun people and money as
unimportant. Agreeable individuals saw fun people and
money as unimportant in having fun, whereas they did
see fun as causing happiness. Finally, participants with
higher neuroticism scores saw fun people as important
to having fun.
Attitudes to fun correlated with types of fun in
straightforward ways. Those describing sociable types
of fun, saw risk-taking as important to fun, and fun as
causing happiness.
Those describing contentment as fun saw risk-taking
as unimportant, and those describing achievement in
their fun seeing fun people as unimportant to having
fun. Sensual types of fun were associated with money
as being important, and those describing ecstatic fun
types saw risk-taking as important, and fun as causing
3.5 Cultural and Aesthetic Correlates
f attitudes towards fun differ between people, and
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Table 3. Correlates of scores on the five fun attitudes in r elation to background variables and personality. Ns vary from 964
to 1059. Key: * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001. Correlations greater than .1 are in bold
1 2 3 4 5
Fun attitude Risk taking Fun people Fun causing happinessMoney Spontaneity
Female –0.159*** 0.053 0.011 –0.064* –0.037
Age –0.254*** –0.131*** –0.049 –0.014 0.036
Science education 0.021 –0.042 0.030 –0.033 –0.059
Social class 0.075* 0.032 0.000 –0.050 0.021
Neuroticism –0.015
0.144*** 0.007 0.080** 0.048
Extraversion 0.255*** 0.099** 0.247*** 0.005 0.118***
Openness 0.193*** –0.175*** –0.039 –0.128*** 0.036
Agreeableness –0.104**
–0.150*** 0.142*** –0.161***
Conscientiousness –0.164*** –0.074* 0.004 0.029 –0.041
Fun type 1: Sociability 0.129|*** –0.080** 0.164*** –0.045 0.099**
Fun type 2: Contentment –0.125*** –0.098** –0.059 –0.062* –0.030
Fun type 3: Achievement 0.101** –0.133*** –0.041 0.040 –0.079**
Fun type 4: Sensual 0.092** 0.068* 0.019 0.132*** 0.075*
Fun type 5: Ecstatic 0.202*** 0.072* 0.178*** 0.028 0.083**
people typically derive fun from different activities,
then it would be expected that there would be correla-
tions with involvement in differing cultural and aes-
thetic activities. Table 4 shows correlation between the
types of fun and attitudes towards fun, and twenty ac-
tivities. There are 23 correlations which are significant
with p < .001, and without considering all in detail,
there are several interesting patterns. Only a few cor-
relations are with the fun types although they do make
sense, dancing being associated with sociability and
ecstatic types of fun, whereas classical music is associ-
ated with lower sociability and higher fun from
achievement, whereas pop music is associated with less
fun from achievement. Amongst the attitudes, risk tak-
ing is associated not only with pop concerts and popu-
lar music and dancing, but also with museums and art
galleries and with drawing and painting. Attitudes to-
wards fun people are associated with pop concerts and
discos, dancing, going to cinemas, and browsing the
internet, and negatively with listening to classical mu-
sic and reading novels. The attitude that fun causes
happiness has a similar pattern of correlations, being
positively associated with popular music, concerts,
discos and dancing, and negatively associated with
classical music. The importance of money for fun was
associated positively with browsing the internet and
negatively with reading novels. Fun in relation to
spontaneity did not relate to any of the aesthetic activi-
4. Discussion
“Whatever we do, we have to make it fun”, has become
a modern truism and a modern cliche, applied to eve-
rything from teaching children modern languages, to
playing sport, or encouraging people to eat more fruit
and vegetables. Fun however differs for different peo-
ple, as was well seen in an interview with the new
Registrary (the Senior Administrative Officer) of the
University of Cambridge, who, when talking about the
nature of academic work, said, “Fun is a word I use”,
adding, “not frivolous fun though. We all spend a lot of
time at work and we should make people feel they have
achieved something each day and enjoy the compan-
ionship and social interaction” [41]. As Harvey [42]
has put it, “having fun at work is serious business”.
However widely used is the word “fun”, and how-
ever superficially attractive it is to invoke it as a uni-
versal panacea for solving problems in life, what rap-
idly becomes obvious is that any statement invoking
fun will inevitably beg the question of what fun is, and
how fun will be recognised, and for whom. For psy-
chologists this means attempting to provide an opera-
tional definition. What the present study makes very
clear is that fun is not a simple concept. If fun is a re-
quirement in education or other activities then some
answer is required as to whose type of fun it shou ld be.
The problem is perhaps well seen in the 1994 film Fun
(directed by Rafael Zielinksi), which is described by
the website m as “Two misfit girls meet,
make friends and decide to kill an elderly woman just
for fun” (our emphasis), and in the section of the web-
site marked, “Fun stuff” [sic], under Quotes, is the dia-
logue, “I told you. Hilary and I killed the old lady just
for fun. What, you want me to yell it out loud or
something? ” If, as seems clear, different people see fun
in different ways and in different types of activity (and
for some people, as a character in Fun puts it, “fun is
not number one”), then any prescriptive attempt to
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors
Table 4. Correlates of scores on the five fun types and the five attitudes to fun, in relation to the amount of time spent on
various cultural and aesthetic activities. Ns vary from 1051 to 1059. Key: * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001. Correlations
greater than .1 are in bold
Fun Type Fun Attitude
1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
ment AchievementSensualEcstaticRisk takingFun people Fun causing
happiness Money Spont-
Listen to popular music 0.087**–0.076* –0.118***0.036 0.029 0.117*** 0.033 0.235*** 0.007 0.037
Listen to classical music –0.0400.052 0.113***–0.039–0.0520.048 –0.149*** –0.122*** –0.084** –0.031
Go to pop concerts/discos 0.038 –0.080** 0.014 0.096**0.092**0.285***0.167*** 0.121*** 0.036 0.053
Go to classical music con-
certs/ opera –0.118*** 0.044 0.066* 0.015 –0.0390.032 0.043
–0.109*** 0.038 –0.046
Play a musical instrument –0.0340.007 0.082** 0.008 –0.0150.095**–0.029 –0.088** –0.010–0.065*
Go to museums or art galler-
ies 0.009 0.022 0.034 0.018 0.022 0.121***–0.089** –0.004 –0.059–0.003
Read about art in newspapers,
magazines or books 0.005 0.036 0.018 0.048 –0.0170.097**–0.048 0.005 –0.0410.016
Draw or paint –0.026–0.024 0.014 0.058 0 .000 0.127*** –0.054 –0.006 –0.057–0.035
Read a novel 0.056 0.038 0.065 0.008 –0.087**0.034 –0.171*** –0.010 –0.129*** –0.042
Read non-fiction books (not
for work or study) 0.011 0.028 0.063* 0.050 0.018 0.102**–0.086** –0.059 –0.047–0.004
Read poetry –0.067*0.068* 0 .054 0.089**0.006 0.073* –0.027 –0.099** –0.088**0.022
Go to the cinema –0.015–0.019 –0.057 –0.0090.042 0.038 0.167*** 0.078* 0.062*–0.002
Go to the theatres (plays/
musicals, etc) –0.0020.010 0.014 0.064*0.049 0.046 0.020 –0.022 0.006 –0.028
Act or otherwise take part in
theatre –0.107** –0.034 –0.030 0.067* 0.004 0.072* 0.089** –0.051 –0.011–0.020
Go to classical or modern
ballet / dance –0.062*0.060 –0.015 0.061*–0.0130.006 0.046 –0.041 –0.016–0.066*
Go dancing (any form) 0.141*** –0.058 –0.050 0.102**0.164***0.256***0.115*** 0.123*** 0.007 0.044
Watch television –0.0180.015 –0.015 –0.012–0.010–0.087 **0.062* 0.058 0.066*–0.005
Listen to radio –0.075*–0.039 0.000 –0.062*–0.066–0.044 –0.032 0.033 –0.031–0.007
Listen to podcasts –0.056–0.075* –0 .034 –0.0380.026 0.027 0.090** –0.024 0.058 –0.016
Browse the internet – 0.008–0.070* –0.064* 0.047 0.078*0.044 0.135*** 0.019 0.109*** 0.019
“make something fun” is as likely as not to mean that it
will not be fun for some of those taking part. Anyone
who as a child or an adult has cringed at being asked
publically to take part in someone else’s idea of fun
which they find embarrassing or repellent will know
the problem instantly. The invocation of fun is there-
fore not likely to be the simple panacea that its advo-
cates might suggest, so that as always education any
other activity has to provide for different people with
different needs.
For an extravert a party maybe the essence of fun,
while for a person high on Openness it maybe to a visit
a science park, museum or gallery. Thus an agreeable,
conscientious, female, middle-aged introvert may have
a very different conception of fun from a young, neu-
rotic, poorly educated, sensation-seeking male. Differ-
ential psychologists have argued that people seek out
and change social activities that fit with their prefer-
ences and values. W hilst that may not nec essarily lab el
all those preferred activities as fun, it is probably a
component of them. In this sense fun activities may be
defined as those which satisfy various specific psy-
chological needs for the individual. This is why the
term is both subjective and multifaceted. It may there-
fore be useful to think of types of fun either within the
Big Five factor space of trait theories or within some
specific needs hierarchy such as that suggested by
Murray [43].
Fun can be seen as both an attribute of a person
(“they are jolly good fun”) and the property of an ac-
tivity (“swimming is good fun”). The factor analysis of
the fun descriptors suggests that they are being both to
people and activities though some clearly fit the one
better than th e o ther. The f irs t two f ac tors wer e lab e ll ed
sociability and contentment. Using personality termi-
nology these could be interpreted in terms of stable
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
“Fun, Fun, Fun”: Types of Fun, Attitudes to Fun, and their Relation to Personality and Biographical Factors167
extraversion. Indeed, in one of the very earliest books
in the area Eysenck [44] argued that “happiness is sta-
ble extraversion”. This assertion has been supported in
many studies [45,46]. It is perhaps no surprise that par-
ticipants’ extraversion scores were strongly positively
correlated with sociability.
In this study the sensual and ecstatic factors could
also be applied to people, though achievement is usu-
ally thought of more as the property of an activity.
Younger, agreeable, extraverted females associated fun
most with merry-making sociability, while older, open
males more with flow-type achievement activities. The
fun-type factor that showed most correlations with in-
dividual differences was contentment. This form of
warm relaxed fun was associated with being, female,
open, agreeable, introverted and stable.
Participants’ personality was also related in logical
ways to the types of fun they reported. Thus young
male extraverts high on openness (curiosity) but low on
agreeableness and conscientiousness like risk-taking.
This makes sense both in terms of the literature on
personality correlates of dangerous sports and acci-
dents [47,48]. Equally extraverts see spontaneity as an
identifiable component of fun. Fun people it would
appear are agreeable, open, extraverts. They would
appear to have the greatest capacity for fun: seek it out,
create it, enjoy it.
If one considers fun as primarily a characteristic of
activities, behaviours or tasks then it appears to have
various components, namely that it concerns other
people in a calm, involved focused activity, as well as
also being associated with physical intimacy and ener-
getic excitement, particularly with respect to younger
people. Fun thus has a cognitive dimension and an af-
fective dimension. It can be both relaxed and exciting.
The terms applied equally to both.
Attitudes towards fun are also multidimensional. Pu-
ritans clearly disapprove of fun. Studies on the Protes-
tant Work Ethic show that they also disapprove of any
activity labeled “fun” because it may be seen as
time-wasting and purposeless [49]. Fun still, for many,
is seen as a temporary and frivolous consolation, the
business of life being serious and earnest and having
little room for trivialities like fun. Clearly personality
and demography predicts attitudes to fun. Young male
open extraverts are clearly interested in fast, risky ac-
tivities which they label as fun. It is particularly inter-
esting that neurotics associate fun with other people
while those low on both Openness and Agreeableness
do not. Thus while “hell is other people” may be true
for the disagree able individual w ith low Openness, less
stable people may find others a useful source of help
and support.
This study represents the beginning of a full explo-
ration of an important and neglected psychological
concept. For researchers it may even be suggested that
researching fun can itself be rather a lot of fun.
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