Hello. I’m thrilled to be here amidst a group of innovators, deep thinkers and fearless explorers. My name is Pam Rutledge and I’m a psychologist, but my patients are emerging technologies and the people that love them. I spend my time looking for solutions and strategies so that technology supports human goals—whether it’s the bottom line or social change.
I’m new in the area, so this morning I used my Garmin Navigator. How many of you have one of those things? So I put the address into Garmin and she does her thing and calculates that it will take me 45 minutes to get here. I don’t know why I have this problem, but I always take it as a personal challenge. I’m thinking “45 minutes? I can beat that!” I can’t help but wonder if the folks at Garmin understand the psychology of motivation.
So today, I’m going to talk another unintended consequences of technology design: intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because YOU want to, because it pleases, stimulates, comforts, or helps you in some way. It is the Holy Grail, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the magic lamp, because when you have it, you have the power to create things. The key here is that YOU have the power, not the guy next to you, your boss, or your third grade teacher. As I was putting this together, I was struck by the irony of trying to motivate you to care about intrinsic motivation. But that sort of summarizes the problem we have with motivation—we’re always trying to motivate someone else—students, employees, corporations, elected officials, spouses or children.
And we try and motivate other people, we forget that they are constantly making judgments about everything in their environment, large and small. Will this coffee line move faster than that one? Does the boss think Marge she does a better job than I do? Is Phil hung-over or is he just a jerk? We all have rules about how everything works. I don’t wonder what’s in my coffee everytime I take a sip.We also forget that we have our own belief systems about ourselves and our own ability to do stuff.
Our belief in our own intrinsic effectiveness is at core of why we get up in the morning. It is our belief that we can make things happen in ways we want and avoid the things we don’t want,/that our actions have meaning/and, most of all, that what we do makes a difference. I am going to tell you about the links I see between the psychology of intrinsic motivation and emerging technologies. So consider this a Geek Alert: I think this is incredibly exciting stuff because how technology interacts with motivation has implications many levels. At the macro level it influences how people behave collectively, but at the micro level it influences individual consumers. It impacts how and what you design, how you communicate, how you entice people to love your product or service. The shifting psychology will trickle down through your organization and effect on your goals—whether it’s creating shareholder value or funding relief efforts .
So what motivates people? Scientists have divided it into two main buckets. Intrinsic motivation that comes from within you. And, extrinsic motivation that comes from the outside. Much of society, particularly in business and education—is still in a behaviorist’s hangover from the days of Skinner and the carrot and stick approach.
But here’s the catch with that. Nothing changes something fun into work or forces thinking out of the creativity and into linearity faster than external rewards and punishment. Extrinsic rewards change the way we think about what we’re doing and the environment we’re doing it in. They distort social pressures around performance because they activate basic threat responses around relatedness, fairness, status, safety, and cooperation and this anxiety leaves a lot less cognitive juice to apply to the original goal. We need to collectively shift our sights if we want motivation be something that endures. We need motivation to come from within, not applied to a problem like a duct tape.
The first secret about intrinsic motivation is that it’s standard equipment for humans from birth and is a continually renewable resource. Humans like to learn, explore, and conquer challenges. So when we’re looking at intrinsic motivation, we have to think about what facilitates it and what can get in the way, not how to create it. Scientists like Deci and Ryan have determined that there are three things that liberate intrinsic motivation: autonomymasteryrelatedness We like to have control over what we do, we like to get good at stuff and, most of all, we like to have people to share it all with because that is what gives life meaning. Neuroscience confirms that these are central components for optimal cognitive functioning.
As you know, the Internet and social connectivity have redefined communications, changing the distribution channels from being tidily unidirectional to messy multi-directional and interconnected. Every day we engage with the environment through technology to get the information we want, need, or enjoy…but it’s been around long enough now so that we do it without questioning that whatever we need will be available when we want it.
It’s that straight forward. Technology is the new oxygen. We don’t wake up strategizing about how to get our email any more than we do how to breathe, and we make decisions based upon that assumption of availability.Here’s the kicker: this assumption of access has profound implications about individual ‘locus of control’. The use of technology is subtly shifting us into the driver’s seat of our own world—whether we know it or not. We don’t have to know it’s happening to have it impact our sense of agency. We just have to keep using technology.
This is Bob. From his phone, Bob can access all kinds of information without going to the library or opening a file folder, he can connect to others in his social circle without moving his feet, he can seek out professional colleagues and job opportunities beyond his circle without putting on a tie. If he’s lost he can figure out where he is, without having to ask for directions. He can take a break and play games with his brother two time zones away. He can take pictures and videos and share with friends in any number of ways. He can keep up with office communications, monitor global news, post a blog, comment on a Tweet, check in at a local vendor, pay bills, buy shoes, donate money to the Japan Relief Fund, and set up a date after work.Bob can have relevant information from every domain in his life delivered to him on demand instantaneously any time of the day; he can stay connected to the people and things that matter to him, and effectively interact with his world. In other words: technology gives Bob a Results-Only Living Environment in his pocket. He has:autonomythe ability to develop mastery relatedness and social context for a sense of belonging and purposeLike Bob, as we interact with our environment—mediated or otherwise—every success, every social connection, every bit of feedback provides reinforcement. A Twitter or a text message reinforce connectedness, an accomplishment even as small as interacting with a live wallpaper on your phone subtly reinforces the belief that when you act, the world responds. These actions influence our self-view. With these continual small bits of positive reinforcement that come from technology use, people increase their belief they can produce desired outcomes. This gives them more incentive to act and increases the probability that they will persevere when things are difficult. The new norm becomes effective, self-generated interaction.
In positive psychology, the “Broaden and Build” theory describes the way that positive emotions and interactions build on each other to create an upward spiral. Each time we increase our sense of positive emotions and our confidence in our abilities to act, we have a broader base to continue building upon. Yet when it comes to understanding the role of technology, there’s a disconnect. We rarely link technology and application design with what’s actually going on with the whole person. We need to bridge that gap and recognize that technology is a holistic, interwoven psychological experience with rippling implications, not an isolated bunch of features. When technology increases our ability to act on our environments, it creates a new baseline of expectations. Interacting is no longer a luxury, it is an assumption that forces us—allows us—to act for ourselves.With greater autonomy, we set higher standards and make bigger demands—on ourselves as well as others. Technology is creating an upward spiral of intrinsic motivation. The result is the strengthening of our inner resources. We take action on behalf of ourselves and others and the consequence is that we, as a society, have deeper, more meaningful, and more satisfying lives.
The Red Cross has been extraordinarily successful in raising funds using things like texting and Pay Pal. The obvious reason is that it allows people to take action immediately. But the Red Cross is also successful for the same reason that the citizens of Egypt were successful. People believe they matter and that they can make a difference.
In Senegal, the Manobi Foundation dramatically changed the standard of living of rural farmers by giving them access to market prices through cell phones. The results? It changed how they viewed their place in the world and they began to demand services, such as schools, roads, and property ownership.
For you, this makes for a demanding consumer—one who is experience loyal, not brand loyal.This is a world of no second chances. I got lost one night, in the rain, and my blackberry couldn’t figure out where I was. I missed the meeting, went home and the next day bought a Droid.
So what do you do? Think about ‘play’ as a proxy for intrinsic motivation. The folks at Mattel Toys spent a lot of money asking children what fun was. The results read like the list that promotes intrinsic motivation: Freedom, being different, and imagining possibilities—that’s autonomyBeing special, belonging, being cozy and nurtured. That’s another way of saying relatednessKnowing things, performing, and pride in effort. These are all the elements of masteryWith the play metaphor, you will create an engaging experience that supports intrinsic motivation.
Ask yourself if the successes in technology have been feature driven or if they embody this larger aesthetic. Is Apple selling the ability to hold 30,000 songs or is it really about freedom, possibilities, creativity, and belonging?
Let me sum up by saying thatTechnology is fueling a silent revolution by liberating intrinsic motivation Intrinsic motivation is the key to our success as individuals and as a society because it is the lynch pin for 21st century skills of creativity and innovation. Technology that supports these goals will not only be commercially successful, but will give people increasingly control over their personal lives and, collectively, can change the whole world.
Dr. Pamela Rutledge: Intrinsic Motivation & Emerging Technologies
Intrinsic Motivation &Emerging Technologies Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge June 27, 2011