Persuasion triggers to drive behaviour

Cialdini researched and wrote about the power of persuasion and found that there are 6 universal rules to persuade. Here is the best summary of these principles:

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In terms of gamification design, when we are looking to influence behaviour we need to be aware of these principles. From the video explanation, you also realise there are nuances that help and make a principle work better for example the waiter coming back with extra mints just for you after your first free gift of mints and the impact on the tips they received. So let’s look at the 6 universal principles and how you could have them play out in gamification and how they are used in games.


Gamification design techniques that include gift giving rely strongly on the reciprocity principle. If I help you work out a problem, through a help a friend mechanic, you may build up a set of “I owe you” tokens. In collaborative gamification designs, you should find a lot of demonstration of this technique. It also helps build trust between users over time, when you can rely on each other. In the workplace these are likely to be desirable activities.

Games like FarmVille or the Candy Crush varieties rely heavily on this sense of reciprocity


Scarcity is why the sales period works for such a long time already. Days like black Friday are not a regular occurrence hence their success added with the fact that you may find a desirable item at a reasonable price. In gamification you may have rare collectible items that require special effort to find or earn them. You may have windows of time where specific powers, boosters or game play specific items can be found.

Pokemon Go uses this technique with themed weekends, scarcity of some of their creatures also regional characters that can only be found in specific areas.


Gaining authority is a useful technique in gamification designs for knowledge based work and learning. Once you have completed a course, completed your course work, earning a status confirmation in the shape of a certificate is how degrees have worked for years. In forums like StackOverflow, voting up or down of an answer by peers is used to measure the contributors knowledge in a certain topic. The leader board is measured by peer reviews of people’s answers to questions in relation to technical problems people are experiencing. Earning the right to do something, builds a sense of authority and with that also status.

In World of Warcraft becoming a guild leader is a right that you earn over time and with that then comes the responsibility of guiding and building a team for joint combat.


I loved the example in the video where they asked people firstly to display little postcards in the windows of their house to drive safely, before going back and asking them to display a sign in their front lawn. For a lot of the gamification designs we work on, consistency is what people are aiming to achieve, so in a learning context asking the learner to set the amount of time they are committed to learn daily is the small commitment and then measuring and rewarding them with daily login streaks for the achievement of that goal is reinforcing the behaviour. Just refer back to the post about the learning app Py to read an example of this. Also, in Duolingo you can freeze the streak by spending your currency earned through learning regularly.

In resource management games like one of my old favourites Sim City, you had to come back regularly to grow and nurture your city otherwise serious devastation could happen through the shape of attacks from others, community revolts or natural disasters.


For some reason I don’t think this needs an awful lot of explanation, thanks to social media. Who doesn’t want their post like or responded to through emoji or comments. Equally star ratings have a similar use, net promoter scores function the same, effectively they give you an indication of how much someone liked what you said or shared or how well your company is performing. Teams voting together to appoint the top performer often works with this principle.

Game communities, where players share tips and tricks or even assist in the gameplay design for future developments tap into this spirit of like mindedness. Any of the big title games will also have a forum full of fans discussing the latest about the games. Just look at the emergence of E-sports and the following this is creating, in many ways similar to sports. Only in games the hangouts are online, through Twitch or Steam or dedicated sites.


Even in local authority this technique has been used to let you know that 97% of residents in your area pay their council taxes on time, would you like to be one of them. It is an easy way of using statistics in your advantage. In fact many political parties play this game with maybe not so accurate facts and figures. In a recent gamification design we used the option that you could show what actions the majority had chosen to give you guidance on your choice for a next step. We found inspiration in the “Who want to be a millionaire” gameshow mechanics that help out participants to choose answers.

Lottery games like you find in the UK national lottery website, are also always marked with the odds of winning and they include a live feed of who has won an amount recently, to give you the reassurance that playing is not too risky and everyone can potentially be a winner.

What other examples do you have for any of the above persuasion principles either in games or gamification design?


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