Could the “Power of the Streak” Be the Most Motivational Tool we have?

Wordle is an entertaining game that I enjoy playing every day.

Unless it’s a pointless waste of time, that is. similar to the day my streak ended when I was six games from 100. Simply said, I didn’t understand the purpose of a ridiculous word search that serves no useful purpose.

Really, though. Better things await me. However, I continue to play it daily.

Not just me, either. A marketing assistant professor at the University of Delaware whose research focuses on “the judgments and repercussions of repeated behaviours,” is Jackie Silverman.

She knows how to streak. The evidence that it’s a hot field right now is on your phone. People experience streaks all the time, she claims.

One of the most obvious and alluring methods for a business to entice us back to its website is with a streak. Wordle is no slouch, however. Apps like Snapchat and Duolingo (the language-learning business) use streak maintenance like a boss.

However, streaks can also be beneficial and healthy, for example, for those aiming to get in shape or reduce weight. According to Kaitlin Woolley, PhD, a marketing professor at Cornell University who specialises in goal-setting and motivation, streaks can act as a visible indicator of progress.

There are programmes specifically designed for creating and monitoring streaks: Habitify, Streakster, Streaks, Loop, Productive, and so forth. They appear to be there to promote good habits. Strikes provide a sense of momentum, which is inspiring, according to Woolley. People who feel like they are doing well find it easier to keep going psychologically.

According to Silverman, streaks can be beneficial in all aspects of life, including job and school (attendance, test results, books read) (arriving on time, say, or making every meeting). She observes that factories proudly display signs stating how many days have passed without an accident.

Indeed, the allure of a flawless run is deeply ingrained in human psychology. How can we use that to our advantage without getting completely off course when a streak, ineluctably, ends?

The Rush of Success

People consider streaks to be intrinsically important and inspiring, according to Silverman, the owner of the receipts. On or Off Track: How (Broken) Streaks Affect Consumer Decisions, a research she co-authored with Alixandra Barasch, PhD, of the University of Colorado, was released in June in the Journal of Consumer Research.

They discovered that people are much more likely to maintain a streak when they are informed about it and reminded of it. She claims that logging and tracking feed this obsession: “Highlighting those streaks using logs and technology has a significant impact.” (Even the traditional checkmarks on your wall calendar can be effective, she notes, though generally speaking, other people’s opinions are more credible.)

In their studies, which included word games, number games, and workout programmes, they discovered that participants were so committed to maintaining a streak that they’d rather remain playing than switch to something that was more enjoyable.

They would consent to watch an advertising if they were informed it would “fix” their streak if it stopped.

Duolingo is aware of this. If a client knows they will miss a day, they can use the virtual currency (the “gems” and “lingots” earned by finishing classes) to buy a “streak freeze” in order to maintain their streak.

Numerous teenagers are addicted to Snapstreaks, which occur when you trade Snaps with someone on successive days. A “fire” icon with a number representing the number of days the Snapstreak has been active shows.

If you lost your Snapstreak and you know you sent a Snap (not a Chat) back and forth inside the 24 hour window, please let us know, according to the “I lost my Snapstreak” page in the Snapchat support.

Strength of Symbols

All of these, according to Silverman, are a component of the psychological play: fire, checkmarks, coins, and lingots. People cherish symbols and feedback regarding their work, the author claims. According to her, there are situations when the desire to obtain symbols takes precedence over the initial cause of the streak.

Professor of marketing at Duke University Jordan Etkin, PhD, claims that icons “function almost like money does, in terms of being an external reinforcer. It gives the impression that you are building up value and credit.

The numbers on my Wordle stats page, including the ones for games played, winning %, current streak, and maximum streak, all pointed in the direction of 100 for me. It was going to appear magnificent. My thoughts loomed the statistics and the “Guess Distribution” bar graph like a critical evaluation of my language abilities.

That response to a collection of pixels is just too emotional, don’t you think? But everything about it is emotional, right down to the emotions I had when my streak ended. I felt inflated, disheartened, and hopeless.

Demotivated is a further “de,” Silverman informed me. It was true: I didn’t want to play the following day (even if I did), and I cared much less the following time I lost a game. even carelessly skipped a day and dismissed it.

“That is extremely demotivating because people take that as a goal failure,” Silverman claims of the breaking of a streak.

Especially after boasting beforehand to friends about how near I was to a 100-game streak, I did feel like a failure.

Another reason we enjoy streaks is that they allow us to brag. Sharing accomplishments, according to Etkin, is a type of status signalling that makes you feel good about yourself.

Busted! (For the record, I only told people close to me about my successes and failures. My wife laughed at me.)

Although a streak break can make you feel like your progress “has been reset to zero,” Woolley advises keeping in mind that this is not the case. “Only the concrete element that people were tracking has been reset.” Your fitness will continue even if your daily walking streak is broken.

The project was motivated by that depressed element, claims Silverman. She and her craft beer enthusiast husband were with pals, including Barasch, an assistant professor of marketing, at a brewery. Her husband realised he hadn’t recorded a beer he had sampled the weekend before, as was his custom.He was less interested in logging the beer that day because his logging streak had been broken. After saying to each other, “That’s bizarre,” Silverman and Barasch came up with their paper.

How Streaks Can Be Useful

Speaking about drinking, Silverman points out that members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are among the best-known and most beneficial users of the streak mindset. As they reach sobriety milestones, they receive medallions.

“It’s pretty hard for them to get back to where they were,” she says if they relapse. She remarks that the organisations’ culture of cooperation is impressive: “They encourage one another and say, ‘No, you earned that chip. You successfully ended that streak. You’ve already done it, so you can try it again. However, just because you relapsed doesn’t indicate that all is over.

According to Silverman, an upbeat attitude helps minimise the demotivation caused by a streak break, which “would be really wonderful for marketers to attempt to integrate, too.”

Keep your breath in check. According to Silverman, some of her acquaintances who are aware of her findings are better informed now. They sense manipulation. Streaks are largely there to aid you, she immediately adds. I continue to engage in streaks because I don’t believe it to be an issue. Her 150-week exercise streak was broken by COVID-19, and sure enough, she hasn’t been as driven since. I want to start a fresh streak.

According to Adam Alter, PhD, a marketing professor at New York University and the author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, streaks are compelling as a gauge of progress and hence effective. Maintaining a streak becomes more significant as it grows longer. These components work well together to provide a potent mix for reinforcement and reward.

Silverman is nevertheless optimistic that her research “may help produce fresh ideas about how to keep people interested and happy,” in her own words.

Streaks signify money, that much is certain. Wordle’s creator, Josh Wardle, sold it to The New York Times last autumn for more than $1 million. The firm reported its highest quarter ever for new subscribers to its Games section in its first-quarter 2022 financial statement, stating that “Wordle delivered an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to the Times.” Revenue from digital subscriptions increased by 26%.

Fans’ wins and streaks will be kept, Josh Wardle assured them when he sold the game to the Times.

He understands it.

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