Sixteen ways to motivate

7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 8 Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution. I’ll be the first to agree that including an arbitrary number in a headline makes an article sound like something that you’d find in the bargain bin of your local bookstore, but in this case there’s a rationale. In a series of studies from 1995 to 1998 that investigated fundamental human drives/motives for action (status, hunger, sex, etc.), Dr. Steven Reiss and colleagues started with a list of “every motive they could imagine,” including hundreds of possibilities drawn from psychological studies, psychiatric classification manuals, and other sources. They whittled this down to a mere 384, and distributed a survey designed to measure the importance that survey-takers assigned to each motive to over 2,500 people. Plugging the results into a factor analysis to find out how many distinct underlying dimensions were necessary to account for the majority of variance yielded 15 distinct clusters of motives that people rated as of particularly high importance. (They added one more in 1998). In no particular order, they are:


Reiss' 16 Fundamental Motives

Modified from Multifaceted Nature of Intrinsic Motivation: The Theory of 16 Basic Desires, Table 1.


This is at odds with the reigning approach of dividing motivations up into extrinsic vs. intrinsic, and is much messier from a theoretical perspective. But as the psychologists who conducted the studies argue, there’s no reason to expect that an adequate theory of something as complex as human motivation should be anything but messy. We have over 50 distinct cortical regions, over 100 different neurotransmitters, and thousands of proteins. Why not at least a handful of innate motivational categories?

Certainly, the theory has its flaws. There is ample evidence that people don’t have a good grasp of what really motivates them (which puts limits on what we can learn from surveys), and the theory doesn’t do justice to fact that our reactions to "things we want" vs. "things we want to avoid" are subserved by different neural systems. But it certainly provides an interesting perspective. Many designers were astounded at the popularity of Farmville, whose key mechanics flew in the face of received game design wisdom, and Zynga’s continuing demise has been heralded by some as proof that the intrinsic motivation provided by a good game ultimately trumps the extrinsic motivation of praise and badges. Maybe so. But it’s also possible that the motives that Farmville's core mechanics tap into—accumulating items (Reiss’ “saving” motive) and the desire to give a Green Whatsit to someone who gave you a Blue Doohickey (reciprocal altruism, which falls under Reiss’ “idealism” motive)—are not inherently ‘worse’ than other motives, just hard to sustain in the long term in the absence of other motivating features. Arguably, many good MMOs take ample advantage of both of these motives and many more besides.

My previous post highlighted some of the difficulties of designing intrinsic motivators into a game. Even if the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction is a meaningful and important one to make, the difficulties of navigating this space in a real-world game may make multi-factor theories more useful to game designers in practical terms. In particular, they can be used as “lenses” in the sense of Jesse Schell in The Art of Game Design, which contains 100 thought-provoking lenses through which one’s game can be viewed and improved. One can imagine developing corresponding lenses for each of Reiss’ fundamental motives (e.g. “The Lens of Independence: Does my game make people feel autonomous? Do players have a sense of control over their actions? Do they feel free to select from meaningful choices?”)—and in fact, Schell’s list already includes several that are relevant to some of the motives above (The Lens of Competition, The Lens of Cooperation, The Lens of Needs, The Lens of Control, The Lens of Community). (Drawing up lens cards for Reiss’ remaining motives, and designing a game that satisfies the motives of “desire to eat,” “desire for sex,” and “desire to raise own children” is left as an exercise to the reader.)

Although most designers already have a sense of what motivates their audience, focusing one’s attention on the sixteen dimensions that have emerged as particularly important in large-scale studies of human motivation may be a worthy endeavor, if for no other reason than to identify which motives one’s game already addresses best, and to evaluate whether ramping those up even more would improve it further. In addition to features that conventional wisdom suggests are motivating to players (rewards for skill development, compelling narrative, gradually increasing difficulty, etc.), ’16 Basic Desires’ theory may inspire further ideas for underappreciated features worthy of consideration.

Sixteen ways to motivate by Gabriel Recchia, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

7 Responses to “Sixteen ways to motivate”

  1. Lauren says:

    Very interesting, thank you for putting this together for us! I'm curious about the tension between some of these motives that causes the pursuit of one to actively work against others; for example, independence, acceptance, status, and social contact have a fundamental tension between them (we explore this a lot in linguistics in the tension between positive and negative face in social interaction). I can see a tension between vengeance, honor, and loyalty too.

    Do these authors have anything to say about those tensions? The conflict between these tensions is something that I can observe happening both for individual gamers and in gaming communities all the time -- e.g. the desire to compete (Vengeance) working against compassion (Idealism) in that nobody wants to bring a bad player to their events because it will slow them down. (The tension is exemplified in this recent phenomenon in World of Warcraft: )

    Just curious if that is explicitly addressed anywhere in these discussions!

    • Gabriel Recchia says:

      That's a really interesting point (and link--thanks!) I certainly haven't read everything on this topic, so people may have explicitly addressed it elsewhere that I'm unaware of, but the most relevant thing to that I've seen is that this gets treated like a trait theory: there's tons of individual variability, such that some individuals are very strongly driven by some of these motives, and very weakly by others. The authors believe the variability is innate/genetic, but it may be that it's due to the tensions between motives that you just point out: practically speaking, it's tough to value incompatible goals equally and still be happy, and so people may deal with this by increasing the importance that they assign to some goals (consciously or unconsciously) and devaluing others.

  2. 新闻频道 says:

    疑似拖欠供应商账款 私蜜搭陷财务危机频临倒闭 根据美国第三方机构SimilarWeb监测数据,私蜜搭流量自2015年春节后一直呈于下降的趋势。5月合计流量一度下跌到3000人次左右,相当于每日仅能从互联网上获得100个用户的访问。相对于电商行业万分之五的交易转换率来说,目前客户群对于公司正常经营维持明显有着巨大的问题。 依靠东大门及网络品牌服装进行海淘的私蜜搭APP,在新任领导人崔胜勋接管后危机频发。据其公司的供应商透露,目前已拖欠相关服务款项高达数月,但欠款金额并不十分巨大,有理由相信该公司可能面临财务危机。 当然,私蜜搭实际的问题可能远比报表中表现的更为复杂。这是一家宣称正宗韩国海淘的电

  3. When you will be packing your underwear as well as other person hygiene items be certain you base this on what kind of travel time you will be experiencing in in between the unique hotels you'll be staying at. In the event the journeys will be lengthy distances then pack as outlined by that, nevertheless; if they're shorter journeys you will be able to get items you need and can possess the opportunity to wash your items in the course of your stays.Items which you should really have handy and not packed away when traveling on the bus would be books, your MP3 or iPods and

  4. 茶楼论坛 says:

    html模版追求幸福的句子 幸福却又常常跟随你 1、创造,或者酝酿未来的创造。这是一种必要性:幸福只能存在于这种必要性得到满足的时候。 2、当你追求幸福时,幸福往往逃避你;但当你逃避幸福,幸福却又常常跟随你。 3、个人的痛苦与欢乐,必须融合在时代的痛苦与欢乐里。 4、获得幸福的秘诀,并不在为了追求快乐而全力以赴,而是在全力以赴之中寻出快乐。 5、科学家的天职叫我们应当继续奋斗,彻底揭露自然界的奥秘,掌握这些奥秘便能在将来造福人类。 6、科学决不是一种自私自利的享乐。有幸能够致力于科学研究的人,首先应该拿自己的学识为人类服务。 7、快乐可依靠幻想,幸福却要依

  5. html模版每天励志一句话 1、当理想离你越来越近,只要再奋斗一下,踏实的再走一步,实现理想的人就是成功的人,成功的人一定曾真心实意的对待过自己的理想,并且为了实现这个理想他可能通过精心策划,反复的磨练自己的心理承受能力与各方面的防御力。2、该放下时就必须断然放下,切不可抽刀断水水更流!这一段时间来,颓废失落皆出于情。人常说情是一把双刃剑,不深入其中怎知甘苦?收拾起残破的心,重新找回那个快乐自信的自己,这才是我以后生活的目标。3、挫折,人生中难免会碰到。它是人生宏伟蓝图上一粒不起眼的小沙子,遇到它,勇敢地将它扫除;它是一注污水,随时会流入人生大海中;它是一

  6. html模版形容被伤害的句子 陌生人的游戏1、恋爱将两小我由生疏酿成熟习,又由熟习酿成生疏。恋爱恰是一个将一对生疏人酿成情侣,又将一对情侣酿成生疏人的游戏。 2、恋爱就像两个拉皮筋的人,受伤老是不肯撒手的。 3、爱一小我难,爱一个不爱本身的人更难,忘却一个本身的爱的人更是难上加难。 4、或许是我怕了受伤的感到我不感再去惹它了就把心门关上了就不会有受伤的感到了 5、两小我在一路,总有一小我会受伤,与其沉浸在苦楚中,不如学着去忘却,也许那很难,但时光会证实一切 6、汉子的平生,不外对女人做两件事:超乎她想象的好和超乎她想象的坏。女人用他的好来谅解他的坏。假如有一天他们不克不及在一路,不是他太坏,而

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>