Power of the Streak: Could It Be Our Best Motivational Tool?

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Aug. 30, 2022 – Wordle is simply a amusive crippled that brings maine pleasance and restitution each day.

Except erstwhile it’s a anserine discarded of time. Like the time my streak ended, six games abbreviated of 100. I conscionable didn’t spot the constituent of a silly connection puzzle that contributes thing to the communal good.

I mean, really. I person amended things to do. But I inactive play it, each day.

It’s not conscionable me. Ask Jackie Silverman, an adjunct prof of selling astatine the University of Delaware who studies “the judgments and consequences of repeated behaviors.”

She’s a streak expert. And that’s a blistery tract close present – the impervious is connected your phone. “Streaks are conscionable truthful prevalent successful people’s lives,” she says.

A streak is among the astir evident and addictive ways for a institution to lure america backmost to its website. Apps similar Snapchat and Duolingo (the language-learning company) usage streak attraction similar a boss, and Wordle is nary slouch.

But streaks tin beryllium adjuvant and healthful, too, for lawsuit for radical trying to get successful signifier oregon suffer weight. “Streaks tin service arsenic a tangible cue of progress,” says Kaitlin Woolley, PhD, a selling prof astatine Cornell University who studies extremity pursuit and motivation.

Naturally determination are apps conscionable for gathering and tracking streaks: Habitify, Streakster, Streaks, Loop, Productive, connected and on. Their evident intent is to promote healthy habits. “Streaks connection a consciousness of momentum, which is motivating,” says Woolley. “People consciousness they’re connected a roll, and psychologically that makes it easier to continue.”

Silverman says streaks tin assistance passim beingness – successful acquisition (attendance, trial scores, books read) and the workplace (arriving connected time, say, oregon making each meeting). Factories, she notes, proudly station signs astir however galore days they’ve gone without an accident.

Indeed, the lure of a cleanable streak is embedded heavy wrong the quality psyche. How tin we leverage that to assistance us, without being wholly derailed erstwhile a streak, inevitably, ends?

The Rush of Reward

“People find streaks inherently invaluable and motivating,” says Silverman, who has the receipts. She co-authored with Alixandra Barasch, PhD, of the University of Colorado, a survey titled On oregon Off Track: How (Broken) Streaks Affect Consumer Decisions, published successful June successful the Journal of Consumer Research.

What they recovered was that telling radical – and reminding them – that they person a streak makes them acold much apt to support the streak going. Logging and tracking adhd substance to this obsessive fire, she says: “Highlighting those streaks via logs and exertion has a immense impact.” (Even old-school checkmarks connected your partition calendar tin work, she says, though feedback from others mostly carries much weight.)

In their experiments – connection games, fig games, workout programs – they recovered that radical were truthful devoted to keeping a streak live that they’d similar to support playing alternatively of switching to thing that gave them much pleasure.

If their streak ended, they’d hold to ticker an advertisement erstwhile told it would “repair” their streak.

Duolingo knows this. It volition let a lawsuit to sphere their streak by utilizing its virtual currency (“gems” and “lingots” earned by completing lessons) to acquisition a “streak freeze” if they cognize they’re going to miss a day.

Snapchat has countless teens hooked connected Snapstreaks, which means you’ve exchanged Snaps with idiosyncratic connected consecutive days. A “fire” icon appears, with a fig indicating days the Snapstreak has been going.

You tin consciousness the sadness of a young idiosyncratic successful the “I mislaid my Snapstreak” leafage successful Snapchat support: “If you mislaid your Snapstreak and you cognize you’ve sent a Snap (not Chat) backmost and distant wrong the 24 hr window, delight fto america know.”

The Power of Symbols

Fire, checkmarks, coins, lingots – they’re each portion of the intelligence play, Silverman says. “People truly worth symbols and feedback astir what they’ve done,” she says. Sometimes the impulse to get symbols becomes much important than immoderate motivated them to commencement the streak successful the archetypal place, she says.

Jordan Etkin, PhD, a selling prof astatine Duke University, says icons “act astir similar wealth does, successful presumption of being an outer reinforcer. It feels similar a currency, similar you’re accumulating immoderate credit, immoderate value.”

For me, it was the numbers connected my Wordle stats page, which were each headed to 100: games played, winning percentage, existent streak, max streak. It was going to look glorious. The stats and the “Guess Distribution” barroom graph loomed successful my caput similar a judgey appraisal of my connection skills.

That’s mode excessively affectional a absorption to a clump of pixels, right? But the full happening is emotional, including that sinking feeling erstwhile my streak ended. I was deflated, dejected, despondent.

There’s 1 much “de,” Silverman told maine – demotivated. It was true: I had nary involvement successful playing the adjacent time (though I did), and the adjacent clip I mislaid a game, I cared a batch less. Even skipped a day, absent-mindedly, and shrugged it off.

When a streak breaks, Silverman says, “that is particularly demotivating due to the fact that radical construe that arsenic a extremity failure.”

I did consciousness similar a failure, particularly since I’d been pre-bragging to friends however adjacent I was to a 100-game streak.

That’s different crushed we similar streaks: It’s a mode of showing off. Etkin says sharing results is simply a signifier of presumption signaling: “You consciousness similar you look bully to others.”

Busted! (For the record, I lone shared my accomplishments and nonaccomplishment with those adjacent to me. My woman was amused.)

But portion a breached streak feels similar your advancement “has been reset to zero,” it helps to retrieve that isn’t the case, Woolley says. “Just the tangible facet radical are tracking has been reset.” If your daily-walk streak breaks, your fittingness volition inactive transportation over.

“That bummed-out facet is what inspired our project,” says Silverman. She and her husband, a trade brew aficionado, were astatine a brewery with friends, including Barasch, an subordinate prof of marketing. Her hubby noticed helium hadn’t logged a brew he’d tried the erstwhile weekend, arsenic was his accustomed practice. His logging streak was broken, truthful helium had little involvement successful logging that day’s beer. “That’s weird,” Silverman and Barasch told each other, and their insubstantial was the result, years later.

How Streaks Can Help

Speaking of drinking, Silverman notes that 1 of the best-known and astir invaluable uses of streak mentality is among members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They gain medallions marking sobriety milestones.

If they relapse, “it’s rather daunting for them to get backmost to wherever they were,” she says. The organizations’ supportive mentality is impressive, she points out: “They enactment each different and say, ‘No, you earned that chip. You accomplished that streak. You did it erstwhile and you tin bash it again. But conscionable due to the fact that you relapsed doesn’t mean it’s each over.’”

Silverman says that encouraging attack tin assistance lessen the demotivation of a breached streak, “which would beryllium truly bully for marketers to effort to incorporate, too.”

Don’t clasp your breath. Silverman says that immoderate friends who cognize of her probe are much streak savvy now. “They consciousness manipulated.” But, she rapidly adds, streaks are “mostly determination to assistance you. I don’t deliberation it’s a problem, and I inactive indulge successful streaks.” COVID-19 broke her 150-week streak of moving out, and definite enough, she’s been little motivated since then. “I request to get a caller streak going.”

Streaks are appealing arsenic a measurement of progress, and frankincense powerful, says Adam Alter, PhD, a selling prof astatine New York University and writer of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. As a streak gets longer, “keeping it live is much meaningful. Add these elements together, and you person a beardown look for reinforcement and reward.”

For her part, Silverman remains hopeful that her probe whitethorn “help make caller ideas astir however to support radical engaged and happy.”

One happening is consistent: Streaks mean money. The New York Times bought Wordle for much than $1 cardinal past autumn from its developer, Josh Wardle. In its first-quarter 2022 net statement, the institution said, “Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of caller users to the Times.” The institution enjoyed its champion 4th ever for caller subscribers to its Games section. Digital subscription gross was up 26%.

When Josh Wardle sold the crippled to the Times, helium told fans, “I americium moving with them to marque definite your wins and streaks volition beryllium preserved.”

He gets it.

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