To-Do App Shows How Feedback Loops Are Critical To Motivation

To-Do App Shows How Feedback Loops Are Critical To Motivation

The emergence of game-based systems illuminates the basic principles of human motivation.

Kyle Studstill
  • 9 july 2010

A primary principle in studies of behavior and motivation is the idea of the feedback loop; this basic concept describes a cycle initiated by us engaging in some behavior or action, that action impacting something external, and that external thing responding back to us in a way that we can infer the link between how x action causes y result.

This principle helps illuminate many manifestations of motivation or behavior (and lack of). As a basic example, many healthy living behaviors result in no feedback that we can causally link in ways that are intuitive to us; the result of living well is “not being unhealthy” – in other words a lack of feedback.

A similar thing can be said for many of the things we mentally think of as chores. As relatively short-sighted beings, we often have a hard time making that intuitive jump between how the daily tasks we do today translate into long-term value years or even months down the road.

It is with these principles at work that we see the development and spread of applying game mechanics to more parts of daily life. Epic Win is a app-based task manager that brings elements from the role-playing game world to the daily to-do list. As items are marked off as done, experience points are collected to improve a player’s avatar, turning slow-developing long-term tasks (say the task of working out every day) into discrete and immediate forms of feedback. The user’s selectable character moves along a quest map towards new locations, unlocking items that are sharable on Facebook and Twitter for instant social feedback as well.

Watch a video explanation below:

We are seeing the points concept emerge in other disciplines as well. The XP system is something that professor Lee Sheldon of Indiana University has implemented into his courses on game design. Instead of work detracting from a students final evaluation for being wrong, students’ work is translated into experience points that accumulate as learning tasks are accomplished.

As new ideas develop that attempt to uncover new ways of inspiring better behavior,  we expect them to follow closer to themes of social motivation and immediate feedback loops, and further from the idea of the coldly rational, will-driven individual.

Epic Win

[via NYT BITS]

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