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Power of the Streak: CAN IT BE Our Best Motivational Tool?

Aug. 30, 2022 Wordle is really a fun game that brings me pleasure and satisfaction each day.

Except when its a stupid waste of time. Just like the day my streak ended, six games lacking 100. I simply didnt start to see the point of a silly word puzzle that contributes nothing to the normal good.

After all, really. I’ve better things you can do. But I still play it, each day.

Its not only me. Ask Jackie Silverman, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Delaware who studies the judgments and consequences of repeated behaviors.

Shes a streak expert. And thats a hot field at this time the proof is on your own phone. Streaks are simply so prevalent in peoples lives, she says.

A streak has become the obvious and addictive ways for an organization to lure us back again to its website. Apps like Snapchat and Duolingo (the language-learning company) use streak maintenance just like a boss, and Wordle is not any slouch.

But streaks are a good idea and healthful, too, for example for people looking to get in form or shed weight. Streaks can serve as a tangible cue of progress, says Kaitlin Woolley, PhD, a marketing professor at Cornell University who studies goal pursuit and motivation.

Naturally you can find apps simply for building and tracking streaks: Habitify, Streakster, Streaks, Loop, Productive, on and on. Their apparent purpose would be to encourage healthy habits. Streaks provide a sense of momentum, that is motivating, says Woolley. People feel theyre on a roll, and psychologically that means it is better to continue.

Silverman says streaks might help throughout life in education (attendance, test scores, books read) and the workplace (arriving promptly, say, or making every meeting). Factories, she notes, proudly post signs about how exactly a number of days theyve gone lacking any accident.

Indeed, the lure of an ideal streak is embedded deep within the human psyche. How do we leverage that to greatly help us, without having to be totally derailed whenever a streak, inevitably, ends?

The Rush of Reward

People find streaks inherently valuable and motivating, says Silverman, who gets the receipts. She co-authored with Alixandra Barasch, PhD, of the University of Colorado, a report titled On or Off Track: How (Broken) Streaks Affect Consumer Decisions, published in June in the Journal of Consumer Research.

What they found was that telling people and reminding them they have a streak makes them a lot more likely to keep carefully the streak going. Logging and tracking add fuel to the obsessive fire, she says: Highlighting those streaks via logs and technology includes a huge impact. (Even old-school checkmarks on your own wall calendar could work, she says, though feedback from others generally carries more excess weight.)

Within their experiments word games, number games, exercise programs they discovered that individuals were so specialized in keeping a streak alive that theyd would rather keep playing rather than switching to a thing that gave them more pleasure.

If their streak ended, theyd consent to watch an advertisement when told it could repair their streak.

Duolingo does know this. It’ll allow a person to preserve their streak through the use of its virtual currency (gems and lingots earned by completing lessons) to get a streak freeze should they know theyre likely to miss each day.

Snapchat has countless teens addicted to Snapstreaks, this means youve exchanged Snaps with someone on consecutive days. A fire icon appears, with lots indicating days the Snapstreak has been going.

It is possible to have the sadness of a user in the I lost my Snapstreak page in Snapchat support: In the event that you lost your Snapstreak and you also know youve sent simple (not Chat) backwards and forwards within the 24 hour window, please tell us.

THE ENERGY of Symbols

Fire, checkmarks, coins, lingots theyre all area of the psychological play, Silverman says. People really value symbols and feedback in what theyve done, she says. Sometimes the urge to obtain symbols becomes more important than whatever motivated them to start out the streak to begin with, she says.

Jordan Etkin, PhD, a marketing professor at Duke University, says icons act almost like money does, when it comes to as an external reinforcer. It feels as though a currency, like youre accumulating some credit, some value.

For me personally, it had been the numbers on my Wordle stats page, that have been all headed to 100: games played, winning percentage, current streak, max streak. It had been likely to look glorious. The stats and the Guess Distribution bar graph loomed in my own mind such as a judgey assessment of my language skills.

Thats much too emotional a a reaction to a lot of pixels, right? However the whole thing is emotional, including that sinking feeling when my streak ended. I was deflated, dejected, despondent.

Theres yet another de, Silverman explained demotivated. It had been true: I had no fascination with playing the very next day (though I did so), and next time I lost a casino game, I cared much less. Even skipped each day, absent-mindedly, and shrugged it off.

Whenever a streak breaks, Silverman says, that’s especially demotivating because people interpret that as an objective failure.

I did so feel like failing, especially since Id been pre-bragging to friends how close I was to a 100-game streak.

Thats another reason we like streaks: Its a means of revealing. Etkin says sharing results is really a type of status signaling: You are feeling as if you look good to others.

Busted! (For the record, I only shared my accomplishments and failure with those near me. My partner was amused.)

But while a broken streak feels as though your progress has been reset to zero, it can help to keep in mind that isnt the case, Woolley says. Just the tangible aspect folks are tracking has been reset. If your daily-walk streak breaks, your fitness will still carry over.

That bummed-out aspect is what inspired our project, says Silverman. She and her husband, a craft beer aficionado, were at a brewery with friends, including Barasch, a co-employee professor of marketing. Her husband noticed he hadnt logged a beer hed tried the prior weekend, as was his usual practice. His logging streak was broken, so he previously less fascination with logging that days beer. Thats weird, Silverman and Barasch told one another, and their paper was the effect, years later.

How Streaks MIGHT HELP

Talking about drinking, Silverman notes that certain of the best-known & most valuable uses of streak mentality is among members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They earn medallions marking sobriety milestones.

Should they relapse, its quite daunting to allow them to make contact with where these were, she says. The organizations supportive mentality is impressive, she highlights: They support one another and say, No, you earned that chip. You accomplished that streak. You achieved it once and you will repeat. But because you relapsed doesnt mean its around.

Silverman says that encouraging approach might help lessen the demotivation of a broken streak, which may be really nice for marketers to attempt to incorporate, too.

Dont hold your breath. Silverman says that some friends who know of her research tend to be more streak savvy now. They feel manipulated. But, she quickly adds, streaks are mostly there to assist you. I dont think its an issue, and I still enjoy streaks. COVID-19 broke her 150-week streak of training, and affirmed, shes been less motivated since that time. I have to get yourself a new streak going.

Streaks are appealing as a way of measuring progress, and therefore powerful, says Adam Alter, PhD, a marketing professor at NY University and writer of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the business enterprise of Keeping Us Hooked. As a streak gets longer, keeping it alive is more meaningful. Add these elements together, and you also have a solid recipe for reinforcement and reward.

On her behalf part, Silverman remains hopeful that her research can help generate new ideas about how exactly to help keep people engaged and happy.

A very important factor is consistent: Streaks mean money. THE BRAND NEW York Times bought Wordle for a lot more than $1 million last fall from its developer, Josh Wardle. In its first-quarter 2022 earnings statement, the business said, Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of an incredible number of new users to the Times. The business enjoyed its best quarter ever for new subscribers to its Games section. Digital subscription revenue was up 26%.

When Josh Wardle sold the overall game to the Times, he told fans, I’m dealing with them to be sure your wins and streaks will undoubtedly be preserved.

He gets it.

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