Gamification, quantified-self or social networking? Matching users’ goals with motivational technology

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Many of the systems and services we now employ in our daily life are being designed using motivational designs. Motivational designs are designs that aim to help users reach their goals via motivational enforcement. They encourage users, show them their achievement as well as nudge them towards better performance. Some of the common motivational designs often used in contemporary systems and services fall under the classes of (1) gamification, (2) quantified-self and (3) social networking. 

Users of systems and services are, however, different and have different goals that they want to attain from the use of systems and services. Users differ in terms of their orientation towards goal-setting. Some want to prove themselves and their abilities (proving orientation), some want to improve their skill and performance than the day before (mastery orientation). Some will avoid setting goals altogether (avoidance orientation). Users similarly differ in terms of their goal focus. Some wish to focus on the process of attaining goals and to, for example,  enjoy that process as much as possible. Some only want to focus on the outcomes and the attainment of that, regardless major or any attention to the process of attaining these outcomes. Furthermore, goals themselves differ. Some are more difficult than others. Some are more specific than others. The motivation needed to attain difficult goals may be different than needed to attain easy goals. The same can be expected with all of these discussed aspects of goal-setting.

Classes of motivational design are expected to provide different types of motivation. We can, for example, assume that social networking designs mainly provide social motivation and that quantified-self designs mainly provide cognitive motivation. It is not likely that these different motivations would be equally valuable to all users with such a variety of goal-setting aspects. Different classes of motivational design may be appreciated by some users but not by all. It is hence important to distinguish the goal-setting profiles of users, and to tailor the motivational designs of systems and services accordingly.

In this study we investigate how different goal foci (outcome and focus), goals orientation (mastery, proving, and avoiding), and goal attributes (specificity and difficulty) are associated with perceived importance of gamification, social networking and quantified-self features. We employed survey data (N=167) from users of HeiaHeia; a popular exercise encouragement app. Our results indicate that goal-setting related aspects of users and the attributes of their goals are indeed connected with users’ preference for motivational design classes.

In particular, the results reveal that being outcome-focused is associated with positive evaluations of gamification and quantified-self design classes. Users with higher proving-orientation perceived gamification and social networking design classes as more important, users with lower goal avoidance-orientation perceived social networking design as more important, whereas users with higher mastery-orientation perceived quantified-self design more important. Users with difficult goals were less likely to perceive gamification and social networking design important, whereas for users with high goal specificity quantified-self features were important. Being specific about one’s goals increases the likelihood of positively perceiving the importance of  quantified-self features.

The findings of this study help us design personalized motivational systems with motivational techniques suitable to the preferences of users, depending on users’ goal-setting aspects. The study further provides insights for the automatic adaptation of motivational designs to user’ goals. However, more research is naturally needed to further investigate these results in different gamification contexts and to identified more refined relationships between user preferences and motivational designs.

Please see the paper for full details:



Citation: Hamari, J., Hassan, L., & Dias, A. (2018). Gamification, quantified-self or social networking? matching users’ goals with motivational technology. User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction, 28(1), 35-74. 10.1007/s11257-018-9200-2



Juho Hamari
Gamification Group, Tampere University of Technology, Finland
Gamification Group, University of Turku, Finland

Lobna Hassan
Information System Science, Hanken School of Economics, Finland
Gamification Group, University of Tampere, Finland

Antonio Dias
Department of Information and Service Economy, Aalto University of Business, Finland


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