Can an App change the world? Persuasive Affordance Design in "Mindful Meerkats"

Thesis (M.A.) 2015 154 Pages

Computer Science - Miscellaneous


Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 The need for change
1.2 Problem Definition
1.3 Aim
1.4 Research Question
1.5 Procedure

2 Methodology
2.1 Literature Research
2.1.1 Relevant Disciplines
2.1.2 Conceptual Linkage of Literature
2.1.3 Literature bodies
2.2 Writing conduct: The Scientific Iteration Method
2.3 Mental Model – Assumed

3 Concepts &Theories
3.1 Persuasive Technology & Motivational Psychology: How does
Behavioural Change occur?
3.1.1 Action/Behaviour/Habit
3.1.2 Motivation and other Psychological States
3.2 Conceptual Synthesis: An extended Behavioural Chain
3.2.1 Motivational Needs
3.2.2 Motivational Affordances
3.2.3 Psychological Outcomes
3.3 Persuasive Affordance
3.4 Creating Critical Mass – The Positive Feedback Loop Assumption
3.5 Research Framework

4 Where are we now? - Mindful Meerkats as a Work in Progress
4.1 Essential Mindful Meerkats Design Principles
4.2 Justifying the Name? Why Meerkats? Why Mindful?
4.3 Description of Motivational Affordances in Mindful Meerkats
4.3.1 Meeka as Virtual Agent
4.3.2 Mindful Meerkats as Hybrid of Social Network&Online Community
4.3.3 Data Collection and Feedback towards Mindfulness
4.3.4 Lookout Master Board and Best Burrow Board
4.3.5 Other Motivational Affordances in Mindful Meerkats to examine in Further Research

5 Motivational Affordances: Compiling Lessons from Case Studies
5.1 Virtual Agents – Finding Research to Scrutinise Meeka
as Motivational Affordance
5.1.1 Analysis: Virtual Agent
5.1.2 Effectiveness for Behavioural Change: Studies of Cases of Virtual Agents
5.1.3 Applying Lessons from Psychology and Human-Computer-Interaction to Decipher Virtual Agents
5.2 An Online Society – Finding Research to Scrutinise Meekas & Meecats in Online Clans as Motivational Affordance
5.2.1 Analysis: Online Communities
5.2.2 Effectiveness for Behavioural Change
5.2.3 Applying Lessons from Psychology and Human-Computer-Interaction to Decipher Online Networks &Communities
5.3 Diary Elements and Personal Tracking – Finding Research to Scrutinise Feedback as Motivational Affordance
5.3.1 Analysis: Quantified Self & Big Data
5.3.2 Effectiveness for Behavioural Change: Quantified Self Case Studies
5.4 Visualised Ranking –Finding Research to Scrutinise Lookout Master Board &Best Burrow Board as Motivational Affordance
5.4.1 Analysis: Leaderboards
5.4.2 Effectiveness for Behavioural Change: An exemplary
Leaderboard Case Study
5.4.3 Leaderboards As Persuasive Affordance
5.5 Persuasive Affordances as Culmination of Behavioural Insights

6 Design &Application– Applying Lessons
6.1 Insights for Mindful Meerkats from Motivational Affordances
6.1.1 Meeka as Virtual Agent
6.1.2 Mindful Meerkats as Online Community & Network
6.1.3 Quantified Self for Mindfulness
6.1.4 Lookout Master and Best Burrow as Leaderboards
6.2 Persuasive Affordances in Mindful Meerkats

7 Conclusion
7.1 Design Insights
7.2 Justification, Falsification, Deduction – Assumptions meet Research
7.3 Linearity vs. Complexity

8 Discussion
8.1 Novelty and Innovation
8.2 Further possible Research with and about Mindful Meerkats
8.3 Boundaries and Limitations

9 Bibliography

10 Annex


Sustainable Development is in desperate need of understanding human behaviour. Most issues that are considered vital require being tackled from the ground up. However, other fields have to be pulled in to make sense of behavioural patterns. These arePersuasive Technology,Human-Computer-Interaction,DesignandMotivational Psychology.[1]

Grounding the argumentation on these schools of thought, this work argues that a smartphone game provides a wide range of capacities that can inspire individuals to make changes in their lives that multiply and become behavioural patterns that in turn have considerable impacts with regards to many of Sustainable Development’s core issues such as Climate Change, economic, ecological and financial crises.

With an approach that focuses on personal wellbeing, playfulness and intrinsic motivation, individuals shall be excited for an in-game narrative that incentivises them to fulfil real-life challenges that will kick off positive, beneficial feedback.

1 Introduction

1.1 The need for change

Sustainable Development is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The current trend of development of the socio-ecological system, that is our planet, is threatening the future of humankind. Admittedly, the planet will be capable of recovering after the human species would have been wiped from the face of the earth, but that can and should not be seen as a truly resilient solution to the economic and ecological (others would probably include social and financial as well) crises that the planet and its inhabitants are facing. Being the greatest contributor to its deterioration, whilst being –q.e.d.– the most intelligent creatures on the globe, humankind and leaders of it should feel a certain intrinsic motivation and accountability to find solutions. Aren’t we part of the global ecosystem after all?

In this introduction, I firstly want to provide a short analysis of the state of affairs to then secondly, suggest an explanation for the fact that it seems that we are stuck as humankind. The third section shall interpret the results to outline in what place this paper falls when accepting the conclusions.

The state of disaster, to put it demagogically and bluntly, in which we currently roam, is most impressively summarised by theStockholm Resilience Centerand their account forplanetary boundaries(Rockström et al. 2009).In their account, which can be seen as a direct continuation of controversial pieces like Brundtland’sOur Common Future(WCED 1987)and Meadows’Limits to Growth(2005), they identify nine global priorities to halt biophysical processes and phenomena which are risking the human future in the current trajectory. Out of the nineboundaries,four are already vastly surpassed. In an updated article, they provide scientific evidence for the transgression of theclimate change -, loss of biosphere integrity -, land-system change integrity -andaltered biochemical cycles boundaries.This could“drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world”(“Four of Nine Planetary Boundaries Now Crossed – University of Copenhagen” 2015).

Even though the scientific community with a great majority is in consensus about the anthropogenic cause of climate change(Oreskes 2004; Tol 2003) and depletion of fossil fuels, other actors like politics, in the form of decision-makers and governing structures, or free economic players like cooperations and conglomerates, are not diverting from the current behaviour. But these players are equally locked in into a metasystem of checks and balances, so that an easy way out is not possible.

The premise that informed this work is the understanding thatBehavioural Changeis difficult and that deep-seated values and worldviews prevent individuals from diverging from their usual course of action. Given that for a majority of issues, an elite will not be sufficient to make a leap forward into a next era of human-planet co-existence as opposed to a source-and-sink-relationship, we have to get greater masses of people convinced. Allowing oneself to buy into what the most prevalent political system, that is currently existing on this planet, is postulating, public opinion will eventually affect more influential actors of the wider system such as decision-makers or global corporations. Therefore, it has to be one of the major concerns how we can actually address the complex problem of behavioural change and inspire key figures to be part of the change. Even key organisations and actors are ultimately composed of individuals, so that a successful intervention that tackles individuals can have spill-over effects into the respective overarching structures.

The issue of Climate Change does not bring a buy-in from majority societies. There needs to be a more appealing narrative and flag to excite wider ranges of people beyond convicted ecological thinkers. Not only is Climate Change unpopular, the same lack of regard can be witnessed for the more marketable and anthropocentric notion ofThe Good Life.Many individuals do not see the implication of their actions for the system and neither how the system affects them. With a general notion of paralysis and incapacity to make a change at all, we are facing a difficult situation.

But how can a situation like this, sometimes referred to asA Perfect Storm(Flavin and Engelman 2009) or aCrisis of Crises(Harding 2015), of multiple dead-locks and great complexities, be resolved? How can the necessary critical mass be assembled to create enough momentum to change the trajectory from doomed humanity to a prosperous and happy future? The author is convinced that a great source of the problem is the fundamental divide between decision-makers and the ones affected of the decisions. But how can these complex issues be relayed to such a diverse global audience of individuals? And how can we frame it from a scientific perspective to gain ground?

The interdisciplinarity withinSustainable Developmentin comparison with other disciplines is notably high and diverse. And yet, the bouquet of potential insights does not include human behaviour and behavioural change. Therefore, this work sets out to draw in insights from Affordance Theory in Design, Persuasive Technology in Human-Computer-Interaction and Motivation and Self-Determination from Psychology. How does a human change his behaviour and why? What makes him happy to an extent that a behavioural transition ensues? Symptoms are treated without thinking about causes. Humans are treated without thinking about intrinsic motivations.

Games, as most holistic pieces of art and seduction, joy and entertainment, provide a useful blank page and scrap books to start an alternative process. Playfulness is inherent in human beings, but gets lost over the seriousness of modernity. Whether this is a necessity or the preferred trajectory, will not be addressed in this paper, but rather if a new sense of playfulness and ease can be instilled in daily life of humans. It is in play where all beings feel the greatest sense of ease, being captivated in flow and peace, experimenting with and testing real world dangers, opportunities and options. Isn’t there a chance to apply this ease to life to bring out the intrinsic choice that individuals have, that can bring more joy to them?

This was the starting point for the work on the project that led to the research. How can we inspire individuals to make behavioural changes that will be better for their physical environment as much as for them with a game-like, mobile system? Creating a virtual representation, often referred to asAvatarthat monitors personal real-life development and comments on it visually, was the first attempt to bridge short-term behaviour and long-term real world impacts in a humorous, non-resentful way. Alluding to the shape of the representation, the project was developed under the nameMindful Meerkatsand shall be the sign post for this work. Can that work? Can individuals be consciously inspired or subconsciously persuaded to change their lifestyle with a mobile technology?

This then follows a trend of more and more specific mobile services that gives advice for specific domains. Health, both physical and mental, have certain apps, there is apps to measure footprint and food behaviours, personal finances and spending behaviour. Some of them have game elements, but they do not provide a full picture of opportunities. By alluding to options and choices in the given daily routine, we will attempt to open the blinkers and create awareness for new behavioural patterns under the promise of an increase of joy and purpose.

1.2 Problem Definition

Aligning to different mental programming, there are different reasons for which people do not embrace big societal change, remain passive and lead unsustainable lifestyles. This wide array of different attitudes, values and behaviours demands an integrated tool capable to activate[2]a heterogeneous sets of people within diverse societies. The transition that is envisioned shifts from an unconscious, unaware life on autopilot to a life of conscious choices and constant curious reflection.

1.3 Aim

Every research should have a goal, an objective; a final vision that drives its executor. As it has been outlined this work is informed by the vision of the activation of passive parts of societies for sustainable practices. To achieve that goal, a smartphone game is assumed to be a useful tool to inspire lifestyle change. Smartphones have become popular devices in daily life and are thereby powerful tools for persuasion(Fogg et al. 2007). To determine which elements are most convincing in a future app, insights from science, theoretical and empirical in nature, shall guide the design.

1.4 Research Question

The research question thereby reads as follows:

RQ: Can ‘Mindful Meerkats’, a smartphone game application, be designed to be capable to induce short-term (and long-term) behavioural change?

The research question thereby reads as follows:

It can be divided into two sub-questions, which can be answered by a different body of literature. The literature foundation, which will be illuminated in 2.1, predominantly consists ofMotivational Psychology,Persuasive TechnologyandHuman-Computer-Interaction.

The first question, to be answered with the help of research grounded inMotivational Psychology,reads:

RQ 1.1: What are the elements of behavioural change, how can it be created and sustained?

Subsequently, this work looks into how said elements can be created with technology and what approaches have shown to be effective in creating behavioural change. Several case studies and real-life examples of functioning technologies will be given. Although usually looking only at the psychological states and emotional impact, and not into real-life behavioural changes, the academic foundation here will beHuman-Computer-Interaction.

The second sub-question accordingly reads:

RQ 1.2: What are digital, virtual elements capable of inspiring or inducing a behavioural decision and potentially a departure from usual habits?

1.5 Procedure

The development of the app that is envisioned is at current stage mostly informed bycommon senseand speculations. Assumptions about how game design affects a) attitudes and values and b) behaviour. There is no clarity about whether the app will have the intended effect, nor whether there is a link between behaviour and virtual worlds. The claim hitherto only stands that through the external motivation created by virtual world and game experiences sustainable choices and activities can be incentivised without a paternalistic aftertaste. The wellbeing, created as a by-product – insofar the assumption –, will create intrinsic motivation and thereby accelerate adoption. In other words, externalising motivation for sustainable activities will build up a momentum that will induce short-term behavioural change. This short-term change will then lead to greater-well-being. The enhanced – in relation to earlier life phases – well-being will then be noticed and consequently reflected upon by the users. The realisation that the behavioural change towards sustainability induced an increase in well-being leads to an internalisation of sustainable activity and thereby long-term behavioural change. As these claims are merely assumptive, this research is aimed at substantiating, fine-tuning, adjusting or falsifying these claims with an extensive literature research.

Coming from these assumptions, a mental model has been developed that functioned as a starting point to dive into the literature. Therefore, this mental model shall be illuminated in its initial form first, to then show what the literature had to be considered to set off the exploration and verification of the mental model. The mental model, used as a point of departure, will then be adjusted with each explored body of literature, deepened and substantiated.

2 Methodology

Foundation and Sources

Although Behavioural Change has been researched in many scientific fields, the terminologies and science is not exhaustive or concise (Fogg 2011). At this point, the reflection of behavioural change should stand in the middle of my reflections. It does not matter which ideological content or abstract objective is driving a planned intervention or persuasion, the tools to create a behavioural change should be grounded on the same framework. Therefore, the quest for a toolbox for behavioural change shall be at the core of this work. Only at the second instance the objective shall be to investigate the mechanisms of an individual’s transition to a (more) conscious, mindful and sustainable lifestyle.

2.1 Literature Research

2.1.1 Relevant Disciplines

Given that Behavioural Change in itself is looked at from a wide array of perspectives, and adding sustainable lifestyle and a smartphone game to the mix, the disciplines that were brushed and partially covered, were diverse and numerous. Out of these, two main bodies stand out particularly with two respective sub-bodies.

Human-Computer Interaction

Being engaged with the relationship between humans and computers, and the impact that technology in the form of computers and other devices can have, it was a natural point of departure to explore the capacities for technology to induce behavioural change. More specifically, there are two field who specifically look into the persuasive capacities of technology:


Gamificationattempts to employ techniques from game design, game studies and the theory of fun into “non-game systems” (Deterding, Sicart, et al. 2011) to create joy for the individuals being part of that system. Often these non-game systems are businesses or customer relations.

Persuasive Technology

WhileGamificationhas its birthplace in marketing and game design,Persuasive Technologygrounds itself in Engineering and Behavioural Psychology. Accordingly, attempts to intervene in behavioural decisions are more specifically directed towards particular behaviours, called target behaviours. In contrast toGamificationwhere joy and fun shall be instilled in unpleasant environments,Persuasive Technologyrather looks at ways to stimulate intrinsic needs.


Motivational Psychology

As the goal is not only concerned with creating a behavioural change, but also with maintaining it and spreading it, the field ofMotivational Psychologyprovides valuable insights. Mainly concerned with abstract concepts and notions, it allowed a deeper understanding of causal links between mental phenomena and behavioural outcome.

Social & Environmental Psychology

Given the fact that the behavioural inspiration is intended to mainly address changes in the realm of social and environmental conditions, a starting point for literature research is the body of literature that explores why individuals are so little concerned with behaviours that protect their harmony amongst each other and with the planetary ecosystem.

2.1.2 Conceptual Linkage of Literature

The research approach is not intended to follow a practical line of work being guided by empirical research. It is also not aimed to be a purely theoretical approach, guided by literature research and the illumination of philosophical insights and principles. Instead, bringing fields together in a novel way, the route of a design-led, exploratory research is taken. Ultimately, the objective is the verification of the assumptions inherent in the current vision of the game app as instigator of behavioural change. This aligns with the research questions.

Research fromPsychologywill help identify abstract causal relationships between value and behaviour that will be operationalised withHuman-Computer-Interaction.In other words, the impact of elements ofHuman-Computer-Interactionon barriers and triggers of behavioural change, grounded inPsychology,will be explored. Put into an example;Motivational Psychologyargues thatidentificationcan be a strong determinant of behavioural change. Human-Computer-Interactionthen illuminates the link between on one hand virtual-digital, personal representations likeCreaturesand in-gamefiguresand on the other hand, real-lifeidentification. Then in a third step, these two researches will be drawn together to make a case for the app. The assumption that with the implementation of the avatar in the virtual-digital environment identification would ensue, which creates willingness to change real-life behaviour. Naturally, this is not an established causal line, yet, but it is only intended to illustrate the intended interwovenness ofMotivational,Social and Environmental Psychology,Human-Computer-InteractionandMindful Meerkats,the envisioned smartphone game.

Along these lines, a clear separation between an inductive and a deductive approach is not possible. The research will not only test hypothesis by looking into research (deductive approach) and thereby verify assumptions about value-means-behaviour links, but also derive new hypotheses from data and empirical observation (inductive approach)and thereby add new elements to the app design. With this explorative and open approach, it is hoped to expand the outcome and strength of the research and preventing a research bias. This endeavour is most prominently undertaken in section 7.2.

2.1.3 Literature bodies

Research intoSocial &Environmental Psychologycan be started off with the comprehensive article“Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to environmental behaviour?”by Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002). They provide an overview into the research on correlations between knowledge, values and behaviour. Their title is a reference to Glasser’s coinage of the term “gap” (2004; 2007) for the phenomenon of great disparity existing between “a particular society’s ideals and practical reality” [p. 39].Hereafter, the same term shall be used on the individual level to refer to the apparentgapthat exists betweenknowledge, values and mindseton one side andbehaviour, actions and lifestyleon the other side. Social Learningas a concept will also play a major role in this work (Wals 2007).

Steg’s“Integrated Framework for Encouraging Pro-environmental Behaviour”(2014)is a valuable source for further insights. Dietz’“Environmental values”(2005) will guide the exploration of values. Additionally, several articles by Hobson (2002; 2001; 2003) from a consumption perspective will illuminate the causal relationship further. A string of research circling around the concept ofEnvironmental Self-Identityby Ellen van der Werf will provide additional detail on the link between self-understanding and behaviour:“It’s a moral issue”(van der Werff, Steg, and Keizer 2013a),“The value of environmental self-identity”(van der Werff, Steg, and Keizer 2013b) and“Normative, Gain and Hedonic Goal Frames Guiding Environmental Behavior“(Lindenberg and Steg 2007). Lastly, the role of society, surrounding, culture and social forces, e.g. theBroken glass hypothesis, will be investigated with the help of the following literature:“Normative Social Influence is Underdetected”(Nolan et al. 2008), “Norm, Network and Commons: The invisible hand of community”(Lejano and Fernandez de Castro 2014), “The spreading of disorder”(Keizer, Lindenberg, and Steg 2008)and“Measuring cultural values and beliefs about environment to identify their role in climate change responses”(Price, Walker, and Boschetti 2014).

As far asHCIis concerned, different strings of the stream have to be considered. Literature onGamificationwould be the following:“Gamification – Using Game-Elements in non-game contexts”(Deterding, Sicart, et al. 2011),“A Real little Game – The performance of belief in pervasive play”(McGonigal 2003),“Applied Behavioural Economics: A Game Designer’s Perspective”(Butler 2015) and“Casual Social Games as Serious Games – The Psychology of Gamification in Undergraduate Education and Employee Training”(Landers and Callan 2011). The impact of virtual representations, i.e. avatarson individuals can be examined by a closer look at articles like“Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behaviour”(Rosenberg, Baughman, and Bailenson 2013),“My Avatar and me – Gender and personality predictors of Avatar-Self discrepancy”(Dunn and Guadagno 2012), “Avatar Creation and Video Game Enjoyment “(Trepte and Reinecke 2010), “Me, myself and I: The role of interactional context on self-presentation through avatars”(Vasalou and Joinson 2009)and“How the physical similarity of teenagers can influence the learning of emotion regulation strategies in teenagers”(Wrzesien et al. 2015).Notable examples of games that try to implement and/or mimic real elements in their virtual environments are illustrated with the help of“More than just a game: Impact of the Ingress Project on the internet and security”(Kabernik 2013),“What went wrong in the Sims online”(Steen et al. 2006),“Motivating Environmentally Sustainable Behavior Changes with a Virtual Polar Bear”(Dillahunt et al. 2008) and“Achieving Sustainable Society through Micro-Level Crowdfunding”(Sakamoto and Nakajima 2013).

2.2 Writing conduct: The Scientific Iteration Method

This thesis is intentionally written in such a way that the process of finding design imperatives for the app design gets transparent. In a startup as well as in programming and IT-development, the activity of going back on presumably static products and services and adjusting and improving them, a process calledIteration, iscommonplace. For science, only recently with the popularity of post-normal science,Uncertaintyand self-scrutiny have fully entered the scene. But the extent of scrutiny and willingness to start over, is not very common in the scientific conduct. The scientific rationale has been mainly about finding unambiguous, law-like and mechanistic truths. Once this truth is found, a researcher has to stick to the stance as a musical group has to stick to their genre to deliver what the “brand” promises.

This stands in sharp contrast to programming and startup practices where temporary discoveries and decisions, constant adjustments and refining, are the norm. To break with that tradition, this work tries to employ the indicated iterative process. It shall be applied here to take the reader by the hand and allow an insight into the organic, simultaneous process of research and app design.

To pursue thisScientific Iteration Methodevery chapter within 3, the Theories Chapter will end with a mental visualisation of the integration of the theory into the logics of the thesis and how it fits into the mental model. After all the theories are introduced piece by piece, they will create a combined picture that illuminates the thesis’ results. It will be an adjustment of the first mental model that has been set up at the beginning of the research process. This initial mental model on which the iterations will build will be outlined in the next chapter.

2.3 Mental Model – Assumed

Given the fact that this thesis shall be used for two purposes, finding new answers to a prevalent question, and verifying existing answers, as mentioned earlier, it is equidistant from a purelyinductiveand adeductive approach of inquiry. The thesis therefore has the purpose to check assumptions that have been incorporated into the app as well as coming up with new design imperatives derived from existing literature.

To make this distinction clear, the mental model derived from the assumptions will be set-up first. It can be seen as the half of this work which is based ondeductive reasoning.Later-on, thisex antedeveloped model will be complemented and adjusted with the help of the literature.

Certain elements in the app have been purposefully included to achieve certain psychological states that were assumed to bring about willingness to change behaviour. They are thereforeMeansto createValueswhich in turn are intended to be conducive to voluntary change. The model, and the app respectively, was set up with the intention to create a mixture ofintrinsicandextrinsic motivationand focus onactionas opposed toattitudes.

TheMeans, vital app elements, that were initially assumed to be most effective to create behavioural impacts, are the following:

- High score boards, also known asLeaderboards
- Anonline communityorSocial Network Site (SNS)
- A virtual representation, also known asAvatar
- Playful elements in a non-game system, also known asGameful DesignorGamification
- A way to monitor personal choice, also known asQuantified Self
- Information, leading toKnowledgeand presumablyEmpowerment.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Mental Model of “Mindful Meerkats”
(HCI = Human-Computer-Interaction;
SEP = Social and Environmental Psychology)

Each of theseMeans, which can are generally researched in the discipline ofHuman-Computer Interaction, are further assumed to bring about mental conditions and emotional states. At the time where the app-design was initiated, the terminology was unclear and so they were simply called Values.

This three-tier-approach can be broken down into manageable strings and nodes. In Figure 1, this mental model is depicted. EachMeansofHCI– as well as intended element embedded in MM – is linked to a respectivevalueidentified by SEP to make a case for the behavioural change to take place.

Theseassumptive stringsshall then become sub-questions. As the strings are currently based on very little concrete research and data, they are still subject to change throughout the course of the draw-up of the thesis. In the diagramwellbeingis at the center. It is assumed that thevaluesand notions bringwellbeing.As such, at this point, the values, which the app wants to foster, arecompetition, social status, identification, fun, reflection/awareness, andknowledge/empowerment. Each of these values, so is assumed, contributes to behavioural change as it provides a motivation.

As an example, one of theassumptive stringsdenotes that change can be created via theIdentificationwith a group or concept through an avatar. This change even takes place if the individual generally diverts from the groups or the concept’s rationale he identifies with.

- First tier Check: Does Identification trigger change?
- Second tier Check: Does avirtualgameagent, i.e. a virtual representation of the real self, createIdentification?
- Third tier Check: Does the designed avatar in MM fulfil the criteria to serve the purpose of creating identification and change?

Due to time constraints, a choice regarding the number ofMeanshad to be made.Proceeding with an exclusion mechanism, the instruments and elements that are more difficult to assess were neglected for the time being.

Gameful Designcan hardly be limited to one particular aspect, and thereby it is hard to test it in its entirety. Furthermore,Mindful Meerkatsstrives to be entertaining as a system, which complicates the matter of verifying anticipated impacts of fragments.

Similarly, the impact ofKnowledgecannot be limited or verified easily. Also, it is partially covered by the chapter aroundQuantified Self (QS), acknowledging that thefeedbackinherent to QS is a form of relayingInformationto individuals. That leaves us with the elementsVirtual Representation, Online Community, Quantified SelfandLeaderboards.

To be able to investigate these from a scientific angle, the next chapter will equip the reader and author with the necessary vocabulary and insights fromPsychology, Persuasive TechnologyandHuman-Computer-Interaction.Consequently, the said elements (later referred to asMotivational Affordances, which should get clear in the next chapter) as intended inMindful Meerkatswill be outlined. Applying vocabulary and insights from the literature onto the elements,Behavioural Insightswill be collected. Afterwards, the model presented here, will be juxtaposed with theBehavioural Insightstobe able to formulateLessonsforMindful Meerkats.

3 Concepts &Theories

3.1 Persuasive Technology & Motivational Psychology:
How does Behavioural Change occur?

If we break down the mental model into assumptions, it is clear that there are assumption aboutBehaviour,based onAction, as third tier; andpsychological states, such as, most prominently,Motivation,that are conducive to behavioural change, as second tier, andImpactsof Elements ofHuman-Computer-Interaction,as first tier.

Yet, the first tier is only composed of instruments that are assumed to induce behavioural change. As it is ultimately intended to change the entire society’s behaviour, it can be spoken of societal change. To achieve societal change, the social norms have to be adjusted. This conversion from single action to societal change can be tracked and accompanied with respective theories. At each of the nodes a different information system with different tools can be seen most applicable. Therefore, a conceptual delineation of these systems capable of changing behaviour through technology will be presented in the following section. Afterwards, the concepts, that are part of the action-society-chain, will be put in context resorting to the disciplines introduced above.

The following picture unfolds (Figure 2):

Figure 2: How a single action can evolve to be Societal Change –
Conceptual Progression (Created by Author)

Actionsof individuals are formingBehaviours. Behavioural patternsare forminghabits.If this tripod is unpacked, the main component is considered to beMotivation.TheFogg Behaviour Modelwill bring more insights into the emergence of behaviours illuminating other elements apart from Motivation. Motivationwill be discussed as understood by Ryan & Deci’sSelf-Determination Theory.The trifecta ofValues, AttitudeandWorldviewswill be illuminated with research on theAttitude-Behaviour-Gapfrom Kollmuss & Agyeman (2002) and Ariely (2008). The topic ofCognitive Dissonancewill be broached to substantiate the fallacy that attitude change alone leads to Behavioural Change. The changed behaviours resulting in attitude change will then create a new personal norm. Stern’sValue-Belief-Norm-Theory(1999) and contemporary adaptations thereof from Vandenbergh (2005)and Oreg (2006) will assist highlighting the transition from personal norm to social norm and finally to societal change.

3.1.1 Action/Behaviour/Habit

The first node in ourConceptual Progression ModelisAction. An individual performs an action when he or she engages with the environment in a voluntary or involuntary way. All actions together form individualBehaviours. Usually, especially in Marketing,Behavioursare assumed to mainly depend onMotivation.The following Model by BJ Fogg departs from that common notion and adds two other ingredients determining whether a behaviour takes place.

Fogg Behaviour Model

In his article “Behavioural Model for Persuasive Design” Fogg (2009)[3]describes the components of a behavioural model that condenses and synthesise different approaches from psychology, economics and sociology into one. It thus provides a consistent framework to understand what the components are for any behaviour to occur. The three ingredients of any behaviour according to him areMotivation, AbilityandTrigger(MAT). Only if all three of them are present in sufficient quantities at the same moment in time, a behaviour will take place.

It is important to note that Fogg’s (2011)perspective mainly relates to design imperatives and the intention to nudge people to do certain actions and form behaviours as opposed to just explain them after they have occurred. This is more of a theoretical disclaimer than an obstacle or impediment for this work as Foggs’sex-anteperspective is applicable in the case at hand. Given that the question driving this work concerns the design of a Behavioural Change-game where target behaviours are envisioned, it is more valuable to be aware how behaviours can be created as opposed to understanding how they emergedex-postafter the fact.

In the following diagram (Figure 3), the interrelation between the three components is visualised. He integrates the concept of thebehaviour activation threshold.For a behaviour to take place, thebehaviour activation thresholdhas to be passed. As the diagram shows, triggers fail when motivation and/or ability are not high enough. High motivation in an extremely hard situation may not bring the target behaviour. High simplicity/high ability/low difficulty for a person with no motivation will not bring the target behaviour either. Fogg summarises:“In order for behaviour to occur, people must have some non-zero level of both motivation and ability” (Fogg 2011, 3)However, extreme levels of one can lead to a compensation of the other. An over-simplification of a situation can create motivation and a high motivation can create new conditions that simplify the target behaviour to that extent that the behaviour can be executed:“If motivation is high enough, people might do extraordinary things – even difficult things – to perform the behaviour.” [ibd.]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Fogg behavioral model (FOGG 2014)

In that logic, it is not always the best option to attempt to increase motivation of people, but also to make the target behaviour less complicated and thereby increasing the ability of the target audience to fulfil the task.


Yet,Motivationis a vital element of a behavioural decision and also the most addressed issue from a designer’s perspective. Designers and marketers often assume that it is the only necessary ingredient and therefore it is mostly tackled. Products are designed to be visually appealing and advertisements are intended to motivate to draw spectators towards a purchase.

According to Fogg, there are three types of motivation:

1. Sensation: Pleasure & Pain
2. Anticipation: Hope & Fear
3. Belonging: Social Acceptance & Rejection

He calls themmotivators.I would like to build on this terminology, and, as this list is doubtfully exhaustive, thus add the specification“core”.They are certainly essential. Also, the key element of intrinsic dichotomy within them, allows for the additional specification“dual”.

Dual Core Motivators

Dual Core Motivator #M1: Sensation

Pleasure & Pain

Clearly, humans’ behaviour is dependent on their wellbeing. The experience of pleasure and pain coins choices and rationale. Learning is greatly induced by these constructs. The famous example of the child that touches the plate of a hot stove bares evidence of that. From the three dual core motivators, it is the most primal intuitive experience. It is a sensorial, bodily response to an external impact. It occurs immediately after or while an action takes place and thus is more of a projective experience with regard to how future actions and behaviours are impacted. The decision itself to perform a particular action cannot be affected anymore. In that sense the immediate motivation for that action is not subjected to the sensorial influence. It can be interrupted, but that makes its occurrence only shorter and not inexistent.

Dual Core Motivator #M2: Anticipation

Hope & Fear

In contrast toSensation,in the second dual core motivatorAnticipationthe time span between occurrence and event is not immediate but forwarded. Whenever an action is assumed to take have a consequence, this has an impact on our decision-making. If it is positive, it isHope,if it is negative, it isFear. In either case, the likelihood for us to engage in an action, increases, or decreases respectively, if we have an anticipation connected to an action. It is also far less primal thanSensationbecause it requires calculation and projection. Awareness of outcomes and capacity to quantify the personal value for these outcomes are necessary. These are qualities that require rational thinking and therefore supersede primal instinct.

Examples are joining a dating site in the hope to find a partner, obtain an insurance out of fear of loss or requesting a credit card in the hope to live better or in the fear to not enough money available when it is needed. Even going to the gym is more motivated by the hope of leading a healthier or fitter life, as opposed to enjoying theSensationof a strained body. Purchasing decisions can also be relayed to this motivator. Products catering for fear are virus programs, pepper spray, umbrellas and emergency buttons. Products catering for hope are self-help advisory books, headphones or makeup.

Dual Core Motivator #M3: Social Belonging

Acceptance & Rejection

The third motivator ofBelongingout of the three motivators is subjected to the longest timespan. Social Norms and values regulate your behaviour with regard to fitting in or divert. Being excluded from social dynamics and happenings is a harsh consequence of certain behaviours. Attempting to avoid this repulsion from community and society creates motivations for otherwise unlikely behaviours. Looking at the rules of evolution, this behaviour can be put in context clearly, where expulsion from a pack and herd could mean certain death. Therefore, the tendency of individuals to try to adhere to the societal rules and the urge forBelonginggets exemplified.

Fogg has intensively researched the powers of the Social Network of Facebook (See 5.2) and claims that:

“Facebook gains its power to motivate and ultimately influence users mostly because of this motivator. From posting profile pictures to writing on The Wall, people on Facebook are driven significantly by their desire to be socially accepted.” (ibd., 4)


Looking at the three motivators in comparison, we have to acknowledge that they are not applicable for all design decisions. Physical responses likeSensation’s Pain/Pleasure are very hard to directly create in a design context. Yet, to understand the range of motivating elements, Fogg’s framework is very valuable. An aspect which has to be kept in mind is the fact that Fogg’sBehavioural Modelis mainly designed to address so-calledtiny habitsand thereby not applicable for complex changes. As Mohr puts it:

“Fogg’s model is elegantly simple and very useful within the constraints he outlines. However, the restricted focus does not fit the goals of many treatment interventions that attempt to address more complex problems such as reducing symptoms of depression or anxiety, treating insomnia, improving self-management of chronic illnesses, coping with addictions, or implementing healthy lifestyle programs.” (Mohr et al. 2014, 3)

This criticism is valid in Mohr’s context of designing health policies, but given thatMindful Meerkatsis exactly aiming at changing small behaviours, this criticism is not a source for concern.

Ability (Simplicity)

The second major component of Fogg’s Behavioural Model isAbilityor the mere capacity to perform an action. Conversely, the construct of simplicity applies. The less difficult an activity is for the motivated agent, the higher is theAbility.This framing allows for two approaches to increase theAbility: An individual can either be trained, and educated to be more capable to pursue atarget behaviour,or the difficulty of meeting the goal can be reduced by simplifying it. To understand how we can reduce the barriers within behavioural patterns via theAbility-component, Fogg identifies six elements that shall be calledAbility constraintshereafter. They are linked in such a way, that if one of them is too dominant or present in a choice environment, the behaviour is not taking place because the agent cannot cross thebehaviour action threshold.

Ability Constraints

The sixAbility constraintsare:(a) Time, (b) Money, (c) Physical Effort, (d) Brain Cycles, (e) Social Devianceand(f) Non-Routine.

Ability Constraint #A1: Time

Relatively self-explanatory,Timeis an important factor inBehaviour.If anActionrequires a long time, the motivation has to be high enough to be willing to bear the opportunity cost[4]of not being able to use the time on something else. The more time-intensive atarget behaviouris, the more difficult it is and thus reducesAbility. As much as the sentence “I have no time for that” should rather say “I don’t want to use my time for this”, a ranking of activities comes to play. The shorter tasks are usually given precedence given equalMotivation.

Ability Constraint #A2: Money

Similar toTime, Moneyis straightforward with regard to its action-hampering capacities. If anActionis connected to an expense of money, an individual that has limited means will be unable to invest this amount. Conversely, the lower the monetary barrier of a particular activity, the greater the simplicity.

Moneyis also linked toTimein the sense that it can be used to offset theTimeconstraint. A wealthy person has the capacity to invest into services and personnel that will reduce the limitation of his time. Time-consuming chores like laundry or dishwashing can potentially be overcome with a domestic assistant, being willing to pay money for the gained time.

Ability Constraint #A3: Physical Effort

The more strenuous an activity is, or the more physical sacrifice and investment it requires, the more difficult it becomes. Assuming the design challenge is the location and distribution of election chambers in a governmental election, it is more likely to increase the amount of participation if the meeting points are evenly distributed over the area in question, so that not muchPhysical Effort,TimeorMoneyhave to be invested to achieve the goal.

Ability Constraint #A4: Brain Cycles/Cognitive Effort

Fogg calls this element of simplicity ‘Brain Cycles’. It describes the fact that atarget behaviourcan be hindered by the necessity to think heavily. The author chooses to call itCognitive Effortto be a clearer term and to align withPhysical Effort.Many decisions are guided by habit and routine, so that the emergence of an unknown behaviour can be constrained by deep and old patterns and thoughts (Sabatier, Jenkins-Smith, and others 1993).

Ability Constraint #A5: Social Deviance

Simplicity can also be threatened by a behaviour that requires social misbehaviour. If one has to diverge from the norm and breach social codes, this can potentially be detrimental and increases the difficulty for an agent to engage in such a behaviour. Conversely, also with reference toMotivator #3: Belonging, the more anActionis in line with socially expected or accepted codes, the more likely its accomplishment gets.

Ability Constraint #A6: Non-Routine

Repetition of actions forms habits and several habits together form routine. The more habituated anActionis, the less conscious attention it needs. Therefore it becomes easier the more often you perform it. Inversely, the more strange, unknown and far from one’s routine anActionroams, the more troublesome one perceives it to be. For that reason, to offset the additional difficulty from doing something highly disparate from usual behaviours or routines, it is important to construct thesetarget behavioursto be extremely simple and especially rewarding.


For any behaviour to take place, it is important that the individual in question is not only able and willing, but also gets made aware of thatMotivationandAbilityvia a timely fitting reminder. Fogg calls thisTrigger, other theorists e.g. Duhigg (2012)call thesecuesorprompts.

They are especially important because oftentimes target audiences are able and willing to perform a particularAction, but they do not see that this is the case; they are unaware. All that is missing is their attention, which can be created via aTrigger.

Fogg differentiates between(a) Spark, (b) Facilitatorand(c) Signal.

Trigger Variant #T1: Spark

ASparkis the type ofTriggerthat is particularly designed to address a lack ofMotivation.It should be combined with a motivational element, aiming towards the creation or stimulation of one of the threedual core motivators.In that way, the motivational message gets stronger. Examples are: A recipe for a vegetarian meal that createsPleasure,an inspiring video to createHopeor a text message to invite you to an event in the vicinity to createSocial Acceptance.It is important that theTriggeris clearly associated with thetarget behaviourto function.

Trigger Variant #T2: Facilitator

WhatSparksare forMotivation, Facilitatorsare forAbility.They are in that sense appropriate for users that have highMotivation, but lackAbility. Similar toSparks,they can be integrated in text, graphics, videos and more. It manages to link awareness of a particular individual to the full capacity of anActionthat the person is already motivated for. Simplifying software services with One-click-option for instance is a way to facilitate a process. As allFacilitatorit attempts to show how easy a particular behaviour can be via a) relaying the information and b) making it easier.

Trigger Variant #T3: Signal

Out of the threeTriggers, Signalshave the smallest burden to bear. They are neither designed to create motivation, nor to create ability. Their sole purpose is making the agent in question aware of the simultaneous emergence of willingness and capacity of a certain action. It serves as a reminder. The same way that aSparkfeels disturbing to a person that is already motivated,aFacilitatorfeels condescending to a person that is already capacitated. Informing the observer is enough.

3.1.2 Motivation and other Psychological States

Although extensively treated in 3.1.1 as part of Fogg’s Behavioural Model,Motivationdeserves a separate look from the perspective of Deci & Ryan, who not only covered different elements ofMotivationthan Fogg, but also rather have a fully psychological perspective as opposed to Fogg’s view that is also based on Design and technology.

Self-Determination Theory

Already introduced in 1985 by Deci & Ryan,Self-Determination Theory(SDT) was only popularised by Daniel Pink’s bookDrive(Lewis 2014, 14). The starting point ofSelf-Determination Theorya distinction between externally motivated and internally motivated actions. These are throughout considered asextrinsicandintrinsicmotivation. Extrinsicmotivational sources are external rewards which are connected to a particular activity by outside party is willing to provide. Examples for extrinsic motivations can be monetary benefits, such as discounts, salaries or wages, but also promises or favours from the realm of non-monetary, intangible rewards can be seen asextrinsicmotivational drivers. For example: “If you come with me to my parents this weekend, I give you a massage tonight.” Even if person x is not motivated on own accounts and from own rationale, which would be consideredintrinsicmotivation, the prospect of a massage, i.e. anextrinsicreward, potentially creates motivation. Vallerand et al.(2002, 37) create a hierarchical model of motivations, where he classifies the sources for intrinsic, self-perpetrating motivations on one hand and the extrinsically motivated behaviour to attain contingent outcomes on the other hand.

Aside from the seminal separation of motivation intoextrinsicandintrinsicin character, the major contribution ofSelf-Determination-Theoryis the understanding ofintrinsicmotivational sources to be exhaustively grasped with the three constructsCompetence, AutonomyandRelatedness.All components have to be given, all conditions fulfilled, to create intrinsic motivation, orself-determinationand devotion, in the agent in question. This bears a shift from controlled, outside motivation to autonomous, inward motivation, a process known asInternalisation.


Competencedescribes the need to feel skilful and capacitated to achieve own goals. If tasks are optimally challenging and are accomplished with a sufficient amount of reinforcing feedback, the condition is fulfilled.


Autonomyrelates to experiencing a full-fledged ability to make choices and influence the given environment. The feeling to be capable in any given moment to choose your path mostly brings additional willingness to continue that particular activity.


Relatednessrefers to the emotional state where the individual feels a connection and ownership towards the activity that is done or the goal that is pursued. Being capable of creating meaningful change and seeing an impact is vital for motivation and is manifested inrelatedness.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

Cognitive Evaluation Theory,also attributed to Deci & Ryan, emerged from SDT as an attempt to specifically look at the interrelation and spill-overs betweenintrinsicandextrinsic motivation: How doesextrinsic motivationbecomeintrinsic?What are the mechanisms of transitions of that nature? What are the dangers?

Empirical research on gamification by Hamari & Huotari back up the assumption ofCognitive-Evaluation-Theorythat extrinsic rewards can jeopardise intrinsic motivation, in the sense that the external rewards potentially overwrite the internal drive. It therefore demands careful evaluation whether extrinsic rewards should be introduced into an environment, given that they might threaten the already existing, and ever more long-lasting, intrinsic motivations.

3.2 Conceptual Synthesis: An extended Behavioural Chain

If nowSelf-Determination-Theory, Fogg-Behaviour-Modelare brought together withGamification’sMotivational Affordances, we can outline the following behavioural chain:Motivational NeedMotivational AffordancePsychological OutcomesBehavioural Outcomes/Target Behaviour.

3.2.1 Motivational Needs

Motivational Needsare first formulated in Zhang (2008) as antecedents of Motivational Affordances. An affordance generally, and the same applies for anyMotivational Affordance, is only effective if it fulfils a need. A handle is only an affordance that suits a function, if there is a need to use that handle, e.g. steering a bike or lifting an object. Being a seemingly arbitrary example, this gets valid when juxtaposed with the case ofMotivational Affordancesat hand. Without being aware of what needs exist with the capacity to motivate, we cannot identify potential affordances that fulfil these needs and bring about their satisfaction.

In his analysis ofMotivational AffordancesinInformation and Communication Technology(ICT), Zhang states:“When using ICT involves our motivational needs, we feel interested (thus attend and engage). When using ICT satisfies our motivational needs, we feel enjoyment (thus want more).”(p. 145). He further argues thatSelf-Determination Theory(SDT)provides a valuable point of departure to connectMotivational AffordancestoMotivational Needs.SDT’s three core elements areAutonomy, Competence&Relatedness.

Zhang complements each of these SDT cores with an additional abstract element. Thereby, he formulates the motivational necessities and breadth more clearly. For the pragmatic use of these insights, this does not pose an impediment, because they can be treated as one section when informing operations and design. He embeds these concepts in the categories of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional sources of motivation, because they are more applicable to inspire behaviour when pitched against physiological and external sources of motivation. Autonomygets completed with the notion ofSelf. Competencegets linked withAchievement. Relatednessgets parsed intosocialandpsychological relatedness.(Details in Annex, Item A)

Another valuable Design approach is Lewis’Design Patterns. Departing from Reiss’ Theory of Desires (2004), that identifies 16 Desires as sources of intrinsic motivation, Lewis (2014) comes to similar conclusions as Zhang. There are internal motivational drivers that make us behave in a certain way. When setting up what he callsMotivational User Stories, a Reiss Desire is formulated into “As a User, I want <Something>, so that” (p. 24). Being aware of these desires, a designer can make sure to cater to one of them to increase motivation. It is important to note that these behavioural patterns are mostly subconscious, so knowledge alone cannot change the behaviour ( See Attitude-Behaviour-Gap, Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002). He for example formulates theUser StoryforPoweras “I can feel powerful and meet my goals”. With respect to SDT, he states“Reiss desires broadly subsume SDT. Independence relates to autonomy, power relates to competence, and social contact to relatedness.”(p. 18). Looking at how Zhang’s understanding ofMotivational Needsrelates to Reiss’Desiresand Deci & Ryan’sSDT, it is noticeable, that Zhang has incorporated many of Reiss’ Desires to extend SDT. Therefore, further elaboration of this work will rely on Zhang’s conceptualisation ofMotivational Needsas conceptual framework.

3.2.2 Motivational Affordances

Deterding (2011) definesAffordanceas“perceived opportunity for action” (p. 2).In the understanding of the authorAffordancesare defined broader. Any element and quality of an entity, be it an object, system or service, is anAffordance,as long as it enables their users to fulfil a particular functional task. Another word for affordance would be ‘enabler’; an affordance enables the user of the respective thing to do something. In line with that, Gibson (1977) coined this term as“Affordances of an environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or for ill”[p. 127] and Chemero (2003)more recently refined, that“an affordance … is a resource that the environment offers any animal that has the capabilities to perceive and use it”[p.182].

For example a cup handle enables users of the cup to drink from it without burning their hands. Conceptually, it can be applied for services or technologies as well, where an element serves a particular purpose. For instance the upgrade from a handheld planning device to an iPhone could be seen as mainly relying on the capacity of the iPhone to make and take calls, and thereby merging planning unit and mobile telephones. Location-monitoring like the Global Positioning System (GPS) enablingGeospatial LoggingandLocation-Based Services(Celino 2013; Tuite 2015; Matyas et al. 2008)and permanent internet connection coverage are in that regard the affordance that allows easier mobile communication.

In the realm ofGamification, it is used as a point of departure forMotivationand thus known asMotivational Affordance.In the context of information systems, such as games or gamified environments, Hamari (2015) state that a system is needed“that fulfils the motivational needs of the user for them to be satisfied with the system and continue with its use. … they are stimuli designed with the intent of answering the users [‘] motivational needs and affecting the users’ psychological states”(Hamari 2015, 9) to effectively gamify a non-game system.

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Figure 4: Abstracted elements from the Definitions
of Gamification (Hamari 2015)

An element of a service, system or object that motivates a spectator to engage with the entity and become and stay a user of the system, can be seen as aMotivational Affordance. (ibd.)Beyond that, we can also useMotivational Affordanceto refer to elements that manage to motivate you to perform a certain target behaviour. In that sense, it is a very utile operator in the field of technology-induced behavioural change, because technologies and their components can be parsed with regard to their motivational capacity.

Deterding (2011) also argues further thatMotivational Affordancesis not only the most researched and substantiated theory of intrinsic motivation, calledSelf-Determination Theory(Ryan and Deci 2000), but also has been widely applied to the realm of video-games, it has not yet internalised the transfer of positive emotions and other sources of satisfaction into the real world and the context and situation the game is located in. Gamificationcan thus only be applied effectively where the situation and environment in which the gamification is embedded is not in opposition to the emotions that are created in the environment: “Their focus is by-and-large limited to the properties of the game artifact, ignoring the impact of the social situation or context in which the artifact is engaged with.” (Deterding 2011, 2)

Consequently, he suggest to establish a new understanding of Situated Motivational AffordancesvsArtifactual Motivational Affordancesto highlight in which contexts there is an added or decreased gain inmotivationfrom the surrounding situation. Only if the emergence of the two does not create friction, satisfaction ofMotivational Needscan ensue, and a potentialPsychologicalorBehavioural Outcomefollows (See Figure 5).

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Figure 5: Situated Motivational Affordances (Deterding 2011)

3.2.3 Psychological Outcomes

IfMotivational Needsare the basic human drivers of behaviour and based on natural desires, andMotivational Affordancesare concrete technological tools within services and systems, thenPsychological Outcomesare the concrete emotions and sensorial effects of a user being exposed to and influenced by a technological element addressing his own – potentially subconscious – needs. The separation ofMotivational NeedsandPsychological Outcomesis chosen in this thesis, because the direct impacts of theMotivational AffordanceswithinMindful Meerkatsmake it possible and advisable to hypothesise on the concrete impact on a player’s psyche.

Due to the fact that these are so diverse potentially and are purely assumptive, no typology for psychological outcomes shall be provided. In quoting Sherry and Lucas’ (2003) taxonomy for video game engagement reasons, Przybylski (2010) summarises, that

“their findings suggest that players use games as a means of accessing one (or more) of the following psychological states: (a) competition, experience defeating others; (b) challenge, experience success following effort; (c) diversion, escape an experience of stress; (d) fantasy, experience novel or unrealistic stimuli; (d) social interaction, have a social experience; and (f) arousal, experience activated positive emotions such as excitement.” (p. 162)

In his very comprehensive and extensive account “Gamification – Motivation and Effects”, Hamari (2015) identifies a number of psychological factors that are identified to be felt in or caused by games. These areVoluntariness, Flow, Suspense, Relatedness, Immersion, CompetenceandPlayfulness(see Table 1)

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Table 1: Common psychological Factors
linked to Games (Hamari 2015)

Both of these lists are considered as subsets of the fiveMotivational Needsoutlined in the previous section. These emotions, mental states and psychological conditions are based onMotivational Needsor even overlapping, such asVoluntarinessandAutonomy.If there is a positive sentiment attached to experiencing one of these factors, the emotional impact can be referred back to theMotivational Needs.

In other words, if aMotivational Affordanceis capable of creating a prolonged motivation for a user or player to engage with a game or system via the establishment ofPsychological Outcomes, this ultimately boils down to a subconscious driver, orMotivational Needs,that are satisfied.

The correlation between Psychological Outcomes and Motivational Needs can be seen in Table 2.

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Table 2: Psychological Outcomes & Motivational Needs


Coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990), it describes the phenomenon of creative potential and intrinsic drive for focus and concentration. He argues that in this moment of full focus, we are most joyful and productive at the same time. Most of the time this is experienced in artistic activity and creative ecstasies like painting, writing or playing music. It balances the elements of skill and challenge, both at high levels. I want to argue here that it can also be felt in games, the creation of imaginary worlds and daydreaming as daily exercises of creativity.


The concept ofImmersionhas an entire body of literature on its own, where virtual environment and the creation ofvirtual worldsplay a role. The effectiveness of a game in creating feelings in the player is dependent on these passive components as well. These are particular important for conventional games with the sole objective of creating entertainment. And even whenserious games&gamificationare concerned, the entertainment component is vital. Inserious games, the primary objective is reinforced or relieved in severity through the inclusion of entertaining elements. Ingamificationa non-game environment gains a joyful and entertaining layer to make an activity more enjoyable (Deterding, Dixon, et al. 2011). However, as this thesis looks at a game that is particular in the sense that there is not only a virtual environment, but an entanglement of virtual and real worlds take place, the scientific analysis gets even more difficult. The immersion into the game is mostly dependent on the identification of real person with the in-game persona, theMeekathat he is.


Funis the purely self-purposeful, innocent feeling of being entertained. Usually the target of criticism ofhedonism,it is less complex thanFloworJoy. For the time being, it shall be used for this rather reductionist appropriation to delineate that a joyful experience can be a lot more complex than only being fun.


The pleasant sensation of achievements and fulfilling experiences cannot be equated with fun. The popular understanding of fun ishappinessandentertainment. Games can truly deliver a wider range of emotions. The Web-Channel Extra-Credits beautifully shows in the video “Beyond fun”(Extra Credits 2012) how a game is truly immersive and engaging when it creates emotions beyond the momentous, short-lived pleasure.

3.3 Persuasive Affordance

This viewpoint relates heavily to Fogg’s establishment of the concept ofTrigger, where timing is essential for any action to take place. This is ultimately the case because aSituationcan be inappropriate for anActionto contain enoughMotivation.In Hamari’s and Deterding’s view – who can shamelessly be called the eminent authorities of the scientific exploration ofGamification – Motivationis the key feature of behaviour. Accordingly,Motivational NeedsandAffordancesare the centrepiece of both their works.

However, if this is confronted with Fogg’s notion ofActionsand the emergence ofBehaviour, as a culmination of actions, where eachActionrequires a balanced amount ofMotivationandAbilitywhile being incentivised with a rightly placedTrigger,the focus onMotivationalone appears reductionist.

Looking at the way Deterding posits the environment into the picture, the evolution of aTheory of Persuasive Affordancesis conceivable. IntegratingArtifactualandSituational Motivational Affordancesto give way to environmental factors into Fogg’sBehavioural Model,thesePersuasive Affordanceshave to guarantee the timely would confluence ofMotivation, AbilityandTrigger.In other words, only if Designers ofAffordances– in most of our cases Designers ofMobile Serviceslike Apps – favour and be conscious of theSituationas well as theArtifactand the trinity ofMotivation, AbilityandTrigger, whilst having a final Behavioural Outcome – or to speak in Fogg’s word, aTarget Behaviour –in mind,aPersuasive Affordanceis at hand.

In contrast toMotivational Affordances, which can be looked at from a determinist perspective, where it can be anticipated, whether a feature has the capacity to be aMotivational Affordance, this is not possible here. APersuasive Affordanceis due to their highly contextual power more of a rhetorical and constructivist figure, which is intended to inform the Design process. The Designer has to be aware of the following elements:

1. Target Action
2. Motivational Need
3. Artifactual Motivational Affordances
4. Situational Motivational Affordances
5. Ability
6. Trigger

3.4 Creating Critical Mass – The Positive Feedback Loop Assumption

ABehavioural Outcome,as Hamari et al. employ it, and Fogg’sTarget Actionare two sides of the same coin. Hamari looks at aBehavioural Outcomeas a result of aMotivational Needbeing satisfied via aMotivational Affordance ex-post.He observes from the perspective of an analyst. Fogg looks atTarget BehaviourorTarget Actionas objectives of aPersuasive Technology.He anticipates and gears with the eyes of a Designer or an Engineer.

Given the divide betweenIntentionalandUnintentional Design, this merged perspective is legitimate because whatever Design you propose, certain components will not be perceived the way you intended them. Just like an artist or poet will be reinterpreted because the piece grows with the audience interacting with it, a Design piece grows with its spectators and users. Only because an Object or designed entity has been intended with on feature that serves one function that does not mean that there are not inherent otherAffordances.

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Figure 6: Action-Norm-Proggression (Created by Author)

In the same way, we should also look at science. In the spirit of theScientific Iteration Method,research grows with its spectators and user.This research was set out to examine the entire behavioural change from a single action to a societal attitude and to a social norm from a perspective ofMotivational PsychologyandGroup Theory. Each of the conceptual stop-overs was intended to be backed up by a respective research strand.

Let us assume thatActionchanges behaviour and behaviour changes habits. Let us assume further that habits change attitudes, and attitudes change values. Only values can reach worldviews, because they are so subconscious. And only if we get to theWorld viewswe can reachSocial Norms, which are the amalgamations ofWorldviewsandSocial Practices. Only if then norms start adjusting, in turn that wills start infiltrating people’s minds. The new social norm will subconsciously reprogram people’s behaviour and a positive attitude-behaviour-gap will occur where the subconscious positive operating system stands creates aCognitive Dissonancewith the non-mindful attitudes. Just flip it.

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Figure 7: Behavioural Chain (Created by Author)

AccordinglyMotivational Affordanceswere assumed and perceived to be able to affect social norms as well.

With passing time, the extent got apparent to which this massive intended undertaking was entirely underestimated in time, scope and available research. Therefore, instead of pretending that this study was never intended to go that fear, the author wanted to outline here rather briefly what was intended, brushing over the topics that cannot be delved into deeply to provide the entire conceptual picture.

In the initial model that was planned, work based on Stern’sValue-Belief-Norm-Theory(1999), Wals’Social Learning(2007) and van Hedlund-De Witt’s (2013)Worldview Frameworkshould have been applied to help to answering the macro-societal dynamics of norm-change.

3.5 Research Framework

After the reorientation and a reality check, the main components of both literature bodies, Zhang’sMotivational Affordances,Hamari’sBehavioural Chainand Fogg’sBehaviour Modelcan be compiled into an aggregated framework.It can be examined on the following page as Figure 8.

It is apparent that the roman numbers in the diagramme correspond to the line of thought that was pursued in the development of this work. It is important to note that especially the later elements are not as deeply investigated as the first sections. Societal Changefor instance was only briefly addressed as a potential outcome ofMindful Meerkatsin 3.3. However, aiming to verify the assumed impacts ofMindful Meerkatson a societal level, the disciplinary background would have to be very different with sociology, public opinion and population dynamics around authors like Lippmann (1922) or Bernays (1952) coming from the other, macro-societal side of the behavioural chain.

The conceptual progression fromCognitive Evaluation TheorytoSelf-Determination-Theoryand from there toMotivational NeedsandAffordancesgets clear. The next step brings Hamari’s elements ofGamificationto then lead over toSerious, PersuasiveandPervasive Games.

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Figure 8: Research Framework

4 Where are we now?- Mindful Meerkats as a Work in Progress

A social Game for behavioural change

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Figure 9: Logo of Mindful Meerkats

Mindful Meerkats is:

- A Business in Creation
- A Social Learning project
- A Societal Vision
- A Research Tool
- A Social Game

Mindful Meerkatsis a lifestyle app and a community game that assists you in finding self-directed happiness through habit changes. Through agency, accountability and ownership we show people that they can influence their happiness to a great extent. Happinessis expressed through six values like aroleplaying gamemonitors performance, which is defined here as happiness. By expressing these values in the shape of a virtual Meerkat representation, we can create a mirror image of the player and trigger reflection.

To be able to makeMindful Meerkatspart of this research, it is necessary to outline the ready-made, conceptualised aspects and elements of the game. Four out of the elements ofHuman-Computer Interactionwill then be specifically focused on to interpret their impacts and capacities of behavioural change with the additional help ofGamificationandSocial & Environmental Psychology.


[1] Interesting discussion of the origin of the quote and the fact that there are more than one author considered to be responsible for this poem: www.quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/10/watch-your-thoughts/ Additionally, the following wordplay was uncovered: The starting letters of the central keywords words, action, thoughts, character and habits can be rearranged to form the word watch.

[2]Activationhere refers to a change in behaviour and behavioural patterns

[3]This chapter is relying heavily on this journal entry and its updates and adjustments on Fogg’s website (Fogg 2011)

[4]Opportunity cost is defined as the amalgamation of value that has to be given up by making one choice. If you use 1 Euro on a piece of candy, you cannot buy a piece of chocolate. The value of the chocolate is the opportunity cost.


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Institution / College
Utrecht University – Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development
Persuasive Technology Human-Computer-Interaction Behavioural Economics Behavioural Psychology Sustainable Development Design Complexity Theory




Title: Can an App change the world? Persuasive Affordance Design in "Mindful Meerkats"