Persuasiveness of showing goals and rewards

20 Aug 2009 - 12:52am
4 years ago
14 replies
761 reads
Brian Mila
2009

Hi,

I'm looking for examples or research that either proves or disproves
my theory that showing a person goals and the rewards persuades them
to reach those goals.

What I have is an application where a user will have predefined
goals, from 0-100%, and at certain milestones they get rewards. For
example they may get rewarded at the 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%
milestones. I'm thinking that showing all the milestones and their
rewards would be better than just showing the very next milestone
(and its reward) alone.

I'm really looking for any research or books that cite research done
on this. I've read a couple books from Cialdini, but haven't come
across exactly what I need yet.

Thanks,
Brian

Comments

20 Aug 2009 - 3:26am
Ali Naqvi
2008

I used to work as a telemarketer for several years. In the beginning
we had a fixed salary. It didnt matter whether we sold 100 deals or 5
deals per month. The salary was fixed. My colleagues and I chilled at
work. We wouldnt "persuade" the callee too much.

The management saw that people didnt sell as much as they should so a
new salary plan was developed. The fixed salary was lowered alot but a
commision sales system was introduced.

The salary would increase based on the deals you sold.

When we found out how much we could earn by selling more than 10
deals per day, we sold more than 50% of what we used to.

This is ofcourse not a "research" but personal experience.

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20 Aug 2009 - 10:02am
Anonymous

Hi Brian!

Here's an article about information being its own reward:

http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/07/why_information_is_its_own_reward_-_same_neurons_signal_thir.php

The way I read it, you might want to let users know that there are rewards
at 25%, 50%, etc. etc. but you might want to withhold from them what the
rewards are until they get closer to them, so that their thirst for the
knowledge of what the award is keeps them moving toward the goal.

anne gibson

new-bounces at ixda.org wrote on 08/19/2009 06:52:29 PM:

> Hi,

> I'm looking for examples or research that either proves or disproves
> my theory that showing a person goals and the rewards persuades them
> to reach those goals.

> What I have is an application where a user will have predefined
> goals, from 0-100%, and at certain milestones they get rewards. For
> example they may get rewarded at the 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%
> milestones. I'm thinking that showing all the milestones and their
> rewards would be better than just showing the very next milestone
> (and its reward) alone.

> I'm really looking for any research or books that cite research done
> on this. I've read a couple books from Cialdini, but haven't come
> across exactly what I need yet.

> Thanks,
> Brian

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20 Aug 2009 - 12:44pm
Brian Mila
2009

Anne,

That is a very interesting idea! I'm trying to visualize how
effective it would be, so I usually look to find other examples. One
of the ones that I can think of, and this might be silly, but Mafia
Wars on Facebook has both types of situations. In one case, the
"jobs" you can do are locked until you level up. In the other, the
properties you can buy are mostly revealed ahead of time. For me, I
like seeing the properties, and knowing what I'm working toward.
Not being able to see the potential list of jobs and their rewards
doesn't really incent me. But I could see other people thinking the
exact opposite too. I will have to think some more about this.
Thanks for the input~!

Brian

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20 Aug 2009 - 4:25pm
Jesse Zolna
2008

Hi,

Yes, setting goals can certainly persuade people to complete a task.
Research in cognitive psychology suggests that a goal's influence on
motivation is affected by hitting the sweet spot on three primary
features: proximity, difficulty and specificity. In your example,
because goals are percentages (and partly because I am ignoring the
actual task itself) proximity and difficulty are intertwined. For
optimal motivation, follow Anne's suggestion of showing just the
next possible reward ... but as the user gets near to completing that
goal, you might also reveal the next level so there is always a
somewhat distant yet achievable goal in view. For specificity,
ensure that the user knows exactly what your percentages mean (which
may or may not be obvious). You can find more in the literature re:
goal setting theory.

I don't know what your application or task are, but be careful
focusing on rewards. Increasing the focus on rewards (upping the
extrinsic motivation) naturally reduces intrinsic motivation.
Performing a task with reduced intrinsic motivation has been shown to
have two unexpected effects on users: 1) it can reduce
long-term-strategic thinking, as well as depth of learning, and 2) it
will reduce the likelihood that users later recall a pleasant
experience (they will think they did it for the reward, not because
task itself was worthwhile). Lots on this in management and
psychology literature, look for motivation and rewards.

Hope this helps.

jz

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21 Aug 2009 - 12:50am
Anonymous

Don't have specific research to hand off, but video game GUI
development could be interesting area to look at; status bar, health
meters, etc.

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21 Aug 2009 - 2:17am
Shruti Ramalingam
2009

BJ Fogg's book on Persuasive Technology talks about the reward system
being one of the many ways in which technology could be used to
motivate changes in behavior. There are also examples provided within
each discussion topic.

Interestingly...what Jesse and Anne are talking about is also one of
the methods in the book. Its called tunneling which involves guiding
the person step by step, till the end goal is reached.

Here are some related links...
http://captology.stanford.edu/
http://www.bjfogg.com/

Hope this helps!

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21 Aug 2009 - 2:20am
Shruti Ramalingam
2009

BJ Fogg's book on Persuasive Technology talks about the reward system
being one of the many ways in which technology could be used to
motivate changes in behavior. There are also examples provided within
each discussion topic.

Interestingly...what Jesse and Anne are talking about is also one of
the methods in the book. Its called tunneling which involves guiding
the person step by step, till the end goal is reached.

Here are some related links...
http://captology.stanford.edu/
http://www.bjfogg.com/

Hope this helps!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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21 Aug 2009 - 2:41am
Shruti Ramalingam
2009

BJ Fogg's book on Persuasive Technology talks about the reward system
being one of the many ways in which technology could be used to
motivate changes in behavior. There are also examples provided within
each discussion topic.

Interestingly...what Jesse and Anne are talking about is also one of
the methods in the book. Its called tunneling which involves guiding
the person step by step, till the end goal is reached.

Here are some related links...
http://captology.stanford.edu/
http://www.bjfogg.com/

Hope this helps!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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21 Aug 2009 - 11:38am
Ian Chan
2005

Brian,

I don't know of any research or literature that would support
universal applicability of a goal-reward incentive model. It'll work
for some people: people motivated by the successful pursuit of goals.
If you choose to follow research around narrowly-defined and
quantitative goals, with rewards delivered for leveling, collecting,
within pre-defined time periods and so on, you'll engage people who
find that kind of interaction compelling. Nothing more nor less.

I think of incentive models as self-selecting. Yes, some or many of
us "respond" to goal and reward structures. But why? For some of us
it may be the challenge, for others, the game flow, for some of us, a
compulsion, and for yet others, competitiveness (against the game,
our best scores, others). But aside from these vastly over-simplified
examples, there are other motivations: personal, social, rivalrous,
competitive, collaborative, authoritarian, subversive, curious...

Name a social interaction and you'll find a social motive. Whether
it can be structured into game flow or interaction models is another
matter, and needs to account for the ways in which the medium
transforms the interaction: by discontinuous play, by linear or
non-linear sequencing, by coupled or dependent events and actions, by
what is shown/hidden, and so on.

I noticed with Spymaster that while some folks played the game,
others played each other. Some players were seemingly addicted to
leveling -- and the things that go with that style of "beat the
game" play: accumulating and owning, always in increasing
quantities. One might ask: which is more motivating: the increase in
quantity or the absolute quantity? Relative quantity -- eg against
oneself or the game or other players? There's no telling, for some
players probably find the idea of a quantity (score) compelling while
others simply like to score. Motivations by idea or conceptual
abstraction vs doing the activity itself would be thus different.

There were Spymaster players who used twitter DMs to gather a group
assassination (my friends and I used skype). There were some who used
twitter search results to see who was leveling (leveling can be set to
send notifications) and then hit them based on what they probably
would have purchased on a new level. That's smart game play that
combines game knowledge with social skill: second guessing the other
player's likely moves and then using search to take advantage of
unintended consequences of having notification set to blast friends w
your every move. (At another level this style of game play also
provides the advanced game player the distinct pleasure of
blind-siding a newbie -- especially one who's dumb enough to
advertise his or her successes and scores ;-) ).

There were some players who set up spy rings and used the game's
social stratification (social games create social strata) to recruit,
execute basic command and control, order assassinations, share funds,
and engage in espionage. In fact one of the more interesting side
effects of Spymaster's integration with twitter was the commonplace
of "whose freaking side are you on anyway, bastid!" tweets. A
declaration of loyalty to a spyring was no guarantee that the player
would cease and desist assassination attempts. So the game took on
attributes of real espionage, played out in public as well as in
backchannel talk. I in fact received an offer of cooperation from my
spyring's main opposition -- we agreed to fight publicly but had the
backchannel there if needed.

I've only scratched the surface of how social gaming might utilize
interaction models, if codifiable in ways that can be structured in
resource, position, power, authority, routine, or temporal forms
(durations, episodes, turns, sequences, etc). It's all in how you
couple the action with the psychology of social interactions and
communication. Since all online activity fundamentally decouples
actions from the proximity and immediacy of their consequences, you
can work with that. I could imagine a successful game that used no
clear goal setting, had an inverted reward structure, and an instable
and ever-changing set of rules. If there were one, we'd all be here
talking about how rule violation, disequilibrium, and chaos theory
can be used for successful game design.

Design and build social with consistency, so that users get what's
going on -- but allow yourself to depart from conventional game
features if you're doing social. Social rules don't need to have
content. They structure social relations -- that's what many people
respond to and find the most interesting. The transformative,
subversive, preventive, ambiguous, open, closed (etc) effect that
rules have on relations is what creates the social fiction (and
reality) that makes a social game compelling. I get a beer mug on
Facebook from a girl -- why? who else got one? do i have to pass it
along? or choose a flowerpot for my friend? do i make it public? put
it on their wall? add a note? who will see that? will people think
we're flirting?

When it comes to social we bring a limitless understanding and
seemingly insatiable curiosity to experiences that shift or change
our normal, everyday, and ordinary social realities. I'd recommend
working with that -- goals and rewards, not so much .

;-)

adrian chan

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25 Aug 2009 - 12:13pm
Brian Mila
2009

Thanks for the responses, but I think I didn't explain it very well.
What I have is a weight loss web service. The user can set goals, say
20 lbs, and that goal can then be broken up into milestones, say every
5 lbs. So in this case, the user has a 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%
milestone every 5 lbs. With each milestone they reach, they get
rewarded with cash or points or other incentives.

>From a usability perspective, the current next milestone and its
reward is the only one the user really needs to know. So if the user
has already lost 6 lbs, the next milestone is 50% and its reward
could be a $10 gift card. They don't need to know the 75% or 100%
rewards because that info isnt relevant yet (progressive disclosure).

What I'm asking is, from a persuasion perspective, would showing all
the milestones and rewards (instead of just the next current
milestone) produce a higher goal completion percentage? Some research
I've found seems to suggest it could. I'm referring to the endowed
progress effect, but that only states that by giving the person a
"head-start" they would be more likely to finish. I think this
technique could also be applied, but it still doesn't answer my
question. Can anyone point me in the right direction for some
research that would either prove or disprove this theory? (Anecdotal
answers are also welcome, but they might be less effective when I
present it to upper management ;)

Thanks,
Brian

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25 Aug 2009 - 1:02pm
Jennifer Vignone
2008

http://www.ianschafer.com/2008/03/duane-reade-dollar-rewards-how-not-to-run-a-loyalty-program.html

The above link discusses the Duane Reade Rewards program, something that many shoppers are a part of in NYC with the ubiquitous DR drug store chain. Not a usability study, as much as one man's angst over the notion of DR "Rewards".

Where would the cash incentive come from? Who would be funding this weight loss? It is sort of fun to get surprised with that $5 coupon...I have never had the anxiety the man in the link has had, and friends have told me that when the coupon expired, the people in the stores still gave them the discount. But what might be useful about the article is the types of things to consider, and the what not-to-dos of this sort of marketing and incentive program.

What do related weight loss programs offer? Weight Watchers' Momentum Program for example? What has your own competitor analysis shown you to be effective? It seems the success relies not just on money here and there but support and community. Weight loss is partly about self-confidence, self-worth, pride and liking oneself/being comfortable as oneself. How will your weight loss service provide those intangibles (not a dollar value) as an incentive?

=======================================

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Brian Mila
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 6:13 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Persuasiveness of showing goals and rewards

Thanks for the responses, but I think I didn't explain it very well.
What I have is a weight loss web service. The user can set goals, say
20 lbs, and that goal can then be broken up into milestones, say every
5 lbs. So in this case, the user has a 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%
milestone every 5 lbs. With each milestone they reach, they get
rewarded with cash or points or other incentives.

>From a usability perspective, the current next milestone and its
reward is the only one the user really needs to know. So if the user
has already lost 6 lbs, the next milestone is 50% and its reward
could be a $10 gift card. They don't need to know the 75% or 100%
rewards because that info isnt relevant yet (progressive disclosure).

What I'm asking is, from a persuasion perspective, would showing all
the milestones and rewards (instead of just the next current
milestone) produce a higher goal completion percentage? Some research
I've found seems to suggest it could. I'm referring to the endowed
progress effect, but that only states that by giving the person a
"head-start" they would be more likely to finish. I think this
technique could also be applied, but it still doesn't answer my
question. Can anyone point me in the right direction for some
research that would either prove or disprove this theory? (Anecdotal
answers are also welcome, but they might be less effective when I
present it to upper management ;)

Thanks,
Brian

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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25 Aug 2009 - 2:17pm
Diana Wynne
2008

Brian, I think the danger is demotivating people who have either a lot
of weight to lose or unrealistic expectations. Percentages may seem
more discouraging than encouraging. And the fact that you made no
progress toward your ultimate goal this week or today doesn't mean you
haven't already made significant progress. Percentages don't capture
any of this well.

I may be bone thin and focused on losing 12 pounds, which might take
me 12 weeks or more. A big guy with more weight to lose could lose
that 12 pounds in 2 weeks. If I gain a pound this week, are you going
to put my percentages backward? I'd quit, or lie.

Take a cue from exercise equipment (usually very poorly designed) or
coaches. They repeatedly emphasize what you've accomplished: 2 miles
ticking up! 6 to go! Only 20 minutes until your next reward.

Generally people do want to know what you're offering in order to
gauge whether it's worth sticking around to the next level. A water
bottle or a gym bag? Thanks, but I'll take my reward and quit. A trip
to Paris: I'll keep running.

When I've designed sweepstakes and rewards for online systems, we were
often surprised at which rewards were hits and which weren't. It is
good to space them irregularly; the surprise/unpredictability factor
may be a good motivator.

But as Adrian notes above, people don't do things strictly for the
reward either, unless it's a really big prize; there are all kinds of
social factors like belonging to a community or feeling a sense of
accomplishment that play strongly into how this is designed and what
feedback you provide. Look at the levels on most community boards:
some people will answer a lot of questions for free to be labeled
gurus.

Might be a good Q for the Freakanomics blog on the NYTimes website :)

Diana

On Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 3:13 AM, Brian Mila<brian.mila at trizetto.com> wrote:
> Thanks for the responses, but I think I didn't explain it very well.
> What I have is a weight loss web service. The user can set goals, say
> 20 lbs, and that goal can then be broken up into milestones, say every
> 5 lbs. So in this case, the user has a 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%
> milestone every 5 lbs. With each milestone they reach, they get
> rewarded with cash or points or other incentives.
>
> >From a usability perspective, the current next milestone and its
> reward is the only one the user really needs to know. So if the user
> has already lost 6 lbs, the next milestone is 50% and its reward
> could be a $10 gift card. They don't need to know the 75% or 100%
> rewards because that info isnt relevant yet (progressive disclosure).
>
> What I'm asking is, from a persuasion perspective, would showing all
> the milestones and rewards (instead of just the next current
> milestone) produce a higher goal completion percentage? Some research
> I've found seems to suggest it could. I'm referring to the endowed
> progress effect, but that only states that by giving the person a
> "head-start" they would be more likely to finish. I think this
> technique could also be applied, but it still doesn't answer my
> question.  Can anyone point me in the right direction for some
> research that would either prove or disprove this theory?  (Anecdotal
> answers are also welcome, but they might be less effective when I
> present it to upper management ;)
>
>
> Thanks,
> Brian
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44855
>
>
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25 Aug 2009 - 4:06pm
Ian Chan
2005

brian

i cant see there being a globally valid solution here. If the rewards
for 75% and 100% are lame, disclosing them won't help -- might even
hurt. If I saw messages from other members to the effect of "OMG I
just got the 100% reward and it ROCKS!" I might eat half as much twice
as quickly! The incentive in other words may be validated by other
users, or by disclosure of the reward, or by suggestive messaging
("You are 2 days from your next reward! Stick with it!"), or something
else ("You can see what the next reward is if you get half way to
meeting your goal").

Problem is that in some cases this will work, in others it won't
matter, and in some it may hurt. It means shifting emphasis from
user's commitment to weight loss to the reward itself. Clearly weight
loss should matter more. So any number of feelings might hijack the
user when s/he reflects on what s/he's doing -- losing weight for a
gift certificate. If the user decides that it's silly to losing weight
in order to get rewards that are all less meaningful than losing
weight, they're no longer incentives but are instead a potential
hindrance (for they cheapen the user's activity).

In which case there's little to do to keep that user incented by the
original reward. One has to give the reward a different value. So, for
example, "Donate your reward" to XYZ... Or create a system where users
who have contributed to chats, or posted inspiring messages, can be
surfaced. Then people who dont really need their reward might donate
theirs to the users who were a real community help. "Your next reward
has been matched by another user" -- now imagine that -- you not only
have doubled the cash value of the reward, but you've added a social
incentive also: the gift.

Obliged, out of politeness, personal ethics, a belief in karma, or
whatever (for it doesnt matter), the user now wants to get the reward
because somebody else donated theirs to double the incentive! Maybe
the user wins the reward and then passes it along! Maybe this turns
into one giant reward that gets donated to kids... and now everyone is
losing weight for a cause... Maybe they FB connect up their cause and
the whole thing turns into a pre-Thanksgiving fast!

...

adrian chan

On Aug 25, 2009, at 10:13 AM, Brian Mila wrote:

> Thanks for the responses, but I think I didn't explain it very well.
> What I have is a weight loss web service. The user can set goals, say
> 20 lbs, and that goal can then be broken up into milestones, say every
> 5 lbs. So in this case, the user has a 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%
> milestone every 5 lbs. With each milestone they reach, they get
> rewarded with cash or points or other incentives.
>
>> From a usability perspective, the current next milestone and its
> reward is the only one the user really needs to know. So if the user
> has already lost 6 lbs, the next milestone is 50% and its reward
> could be a $10 gift card. They don't need to know the 75% or 100%
> rewards because that info isnt relevant yet (progressive disclosure).
>
> What I'm asking is, from a persuasion perspective, would showing all
> the milestones and rewards (instead of just the next current
> milestone) produce a higher goal completion percentage?

25 Aug 2009 - 11:44pm
Jesse Zolna
2008

I'm not sure monetary or point rewards are going to be helpful here.

As I cautioned above, shifting the focus of your user from the task
to the reward may cause them to be less interested in (or have less
positive feelings about) the task. That is, causing the user to
refocus on rewards (extrinsic motivation) is going to reduce that "i
really wanna do this (for me/because it is important for my health/to
look good in my wedding dress/etc)" feeling (intrinsic motivation).
Rewards would have to get progressively more enticing in your case
because the task gets progressively more difficult (the first 2 lbs
are easier than the last 2 lbs) and the reward to difficulty ratio
probably needs to increase to continue to be a successful motivator.

Since losing weight is about health and/or image (still guessing not
knowing your users), I think you might capitalize on those
motivators. You may still choose to frame them as rewards earned at
certain milestones, but the rewards should be designed to reinforce
health and/or image benefits rather than distract from them. E.g.,
"50% there, 2 more lbs and you will fit in your wedding dress"
..."75% there, and now it fits. 2 more lbs and it will be
comfortable too!"

But, to answer your question, if you are intent on using rewards, I
think you are best off giving achievable (but not too easy), specific
goals that are within reach. As for presentation, I think a few of us
have given examples of why you should give one goal at a time, but
when users are near that goal, present the following goal so they
never have a moment without an achievable but not too easy, specific
goal that is within reach. See Psych literature re: goal setting
theory.

To answer a question you didn't ask, I think you should avoid
rewards that distract from the task. Others have suggested similar.
Think about rewards that capitalize on and complement intrinsic
motivators.

Have you done any research into how nutritionists and personal
trainers, etc. reward their clients? I bet they have some methods
proven by trial and error.

jz

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