Getting Motivated

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Gamification TIme: Carrot and Stick Motivation









Gamification is all about Motivation; our drive to do things. We try to use Gamification to create motivating and engaging real-life experiences.

Unsurprisingly, psychology has a lot to say about motivation and what drives us to do the things we do. The oft-quoted ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ developed by Maslow1 describes various levels of requirements we have as humans and argues that, unless the basic needs are satisfied, we are not motivated to aspire to the higher levels.

Or, in a nutshell, if you are starving and cold your priority is not likely to be seeking a ‘sense of belonging’…

Although Maslow’s model has been criticised, it is still a pretty good concept to keep in mind –

if you don’t address the essential needs, motivating people to do ‘higher’ things becomes difficult.

Self-Determination Theory

Following on from this view of motivation, Self-determination theory (SDT) is a major theory in psychology which studies motivation and innate psychological needs within humans (beyond our essential physical requirements such as food and shelter). SDT identifies three particular psychological needs that humans naturally have which affect our growth: Competence, Relatedness and Autonomy. If these needs are met, we will be motivated and productive. If not, our motivation, productivity (and happiness!) are adversely affected. Let’s take a brief look at what each of the needs means:


The need to meet and overcome challenges and to ‘master’ skills. When we have a balance between increasing difficulty and increasing skill we can enter a ‘Flow’ state, a state of being ‘in the zone’.


To connect with others. Caring for others and being cared for ourselves, unconditionally.


Freedom and having choices. Independence.


Driving On…

Daniel Pink the author of ‘Drive’2 felt that the Competence, Relatedness and Autonomy model needed updating. He proposed his own three-element model of motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose


Freedom and having choices. Independence.


The need to meet and overcome challenges and to ‘master’ skills.


The desire to do tasks that have meaning and purpose.


From a gamification perspective, I have developed my own model – more on that later…

Extrinsic v Intrinsic

When considering gamified systems, we need to look at the two distinct types of Motivation – Extrinsic and Intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

This is where we do things for external rewards or to avoid punishment or consequences rather than for enjoyment – the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Deci and Ryan3 described four types of extrinsic motivators as part of their Organismic Integration Theory, a sort of sub-theory within SDT (Kudos for the awesome theory name guys!).

Externally regulated behaviour

Introjected regulation of behaviour

Regulation through identification

Integrated Regulation


So – let’s have a look at each type:

Externally regulated behaviour

This is where the drive comes from an external demand or expected reward. For example working because you’re paid to do so. There is no autonomy (Autonomy = independence or self-determination) for the person and if they are not paid, they will not work unless some other reward or punishment motivates them.

Introjected regulation of behaviour

Here, we’re avoiding feelings of guilt or recrimination. For example “I need to work to support my family”. Although the behaviour is being driven internally by the individual’s need to move away from an undesired state, the cause is very much external and the subject has little autonomy in the situation.


Regulation through identification

This form of motivation is driven by a desire to express something that is felt to be ‘important’ to the individual. There is an element of autonomy involved and self-identified ‘values’ such as “I work because I want to do it”.

Integrated Regulation

Now we are approaching Intrinsic motivation: Integrated Regulation occurs when a set of rules, beliefs or regulations are fully assimilated into the individual’s identity. It is very similar to Intrinsic motivation but the beliefs and models involved have come from strictly external conditioning rather than in inherent joy or inspiration.

We can link these four types with autonomy:

Gamification Time: Extrinsic motivation












Next we’ll look at Intrinsic motivation and the MAGIC motivators…

References and further reading:
1. Bridges, S. and Wertz, F. (2009), Abraham Maslow. In Lopez, S. (Ed.). The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
2. Pink, D. (2011). Drive : the surprising truth about what motivates us. Edinburgh: Canongate.
3. Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2017). Self-determination theory : basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Press.