Extrinsic and Intrinsically Motivated User Types


Yep, it’s User Types again. However, what I want to write about now is a simpler view of the full 8 types, why there are 8 and how they are related. There is some confusion over this as originally I published 5 types, then spoke only about 4 of them and then released 8 – so sorry about that, this is a process and sadly you are all on the ride with me!

I have written about the intrinsically motivated types at great length, so no need to cover much old ground. Briefly they are;

Each is primarily motivated by one of the four motivators I speak about in RAMP: Relatedness, Autonomy, Master and Purpose.

The Extrinsically motivated user types (which I also call the Player user types) are not all that different, they just have one key change – they are in it for the rewards.

The four extrinsically motivated types are;

  • Networker
  • Exploiter
  • Consumer
  • Self Seeker

All very emotive names and make them out to be the bad guys of the show, but actually they are vital and are likely to be how the intrinsically motivated user types start out life in your system.

A Socialiser is in a system to create connections and meet people, that is their main motivation. With this can come other things such as social status, but it is people that interest them. Everything else is just there to enable this. A Networker will do the same things as a Socialiser, but for reward. They will connect and talk and create relationships, but they will be more interested in what they can gain from them, not the actual people they are connecting with. With status comes greater rewards and opportunities for rewards.

This is the same for the other types.

Free Spirits want to explore and create for the simple enjoyment that can be had from this, the Exploiter will do the same, but for reward. They will explore to find the loop holes that allow them to gain more faster. They will create, but to gain reward (think of people in Second Life who create houses and the like to sell on to others).

Achievers want to gain knowledge and understanding from a system. Their goal is to become better, to improve and strive for mastery. Consumers are a little different. They will still use the same system, they will do the learning and they will take the quizzes etc. but they will be doing it to gain something. It may be rewards, it may be frequent flyer points, it may even be to gain the knowledge they need to get a new job. The difference is they are not doing it for the love of the challenge and the quest for mastery. What makes these a slight exception is that these are the people who will be most engaged in loyalty schemes – schemes you actually don’t have to do much to get rewards from. At the extreme though, they are the sort who want to be the person with the most air miles ever!

Philanthropists like to help. They like to answer questions, to assist others, to moderate forums etc. Self Seekers will do the same, but again, for a price. They will answer questions, but to get points or some kind of increased status. Where a philanthropist sees status as a way to help more people find them so that they can help them, self seekers see status as a path to reward. The downside of this is that self seekers are often the ones who flood systems with poor quality content. If all they want is the reward, why should they create quality content if rubbish will get them points?

I said at the beginning that intrinsic user types might evolve from extrinsic user types, but how? Well, that is a key question and one that needs much more data to give a formulaic answer too! The basic idea is that a well designed system will introduce people to the system (on boarding) and then guide them to mastery or as Yu Kai Chou describes it “Endgame”.

Points and rewards are very useful on boarding tools. They can give a new user fun signals that they are on the right track. Each achievement is rewarded and recognised as they go through the beginning of their journey.

I used the following diagram to represent this a while back.

user journey

It shows an “ideal” reward schedule to help a user go from on boarding to mastery and beyond. The idea is to give regular rewards at first, in the habit forming phase start to slow down the rewards and by the mastery phase (the beginning of the real journey in some cases), there should be no need for rewards at all.

user type journey

Why is this? Well, by then they should have found reasons beyond the rewards to be involved in the system. They should have found their intrinsic reason to stick around.

Just for completeness, here is an image that shows the ideal conversion from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations!

Flow, User Jounrney. Motivation

Some things that are important to keep in mind.

An extrinsically motivated user type is not guaranteed to convert to the mirrored intrinsic type, in the same way that in intrinsic type may not stay the same over time. So an exploiter is not predetermined to become a free spirit!

For example. A networker, who is creating a huge network of contacts for gain, could change over time into a philanthropist rather than a socialiser. Depending on what their journey is in the system, they could decide that the reason to stay around is actually to help all of those people they are connected to. An achiever or consumer may also become a philanthropist over time. They gain knowledge initially and over time decide that they want to give some of that back to other users.

The other thing to keep in mind is that gamified systems are not the same as games. They are designed to achieve a certain purpose. This means that the reason to be involved may be different for every system a user comes into contact with. In turn this means that each user may display different user type traits system to system.

The reason I created these was to help people understand the sorts of people that may user their system and how diverse their motivations may be. I have concentrated on 4 types of core motivation, there are other ideas out there (Yu Kai Chou’s 8 core drives in Octalysis spring to mind). They key peoint to take away from this, is that people are not all the same and their reasons for doing things are not all the same. In fact, a single users reasons for doing things will often change multiple times over the course of the, using your system. You may not be able to design for all types of users, but it is important to keep them in mind even if it is just to understand why some people are not engaging with your gamified system – it may just not be designed for them!


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