Octalysis: the Gamification Framework backed by Science

Most people have heard of The Octalysis Framework: the groundbreaking Gamification Framework that explains human motivation at its core. But did you know that Octalysis is also based on a strong foundation in behavioral and neurological science? In fact, The Octalysis Framework is the only gamification framework that is quoted in over 1,500 PhD theses and academic publications. Not only is Octalysis backed by numbers, it is also backed by science!

Octalysis Gamification Science


Today we are going to discover how Octalysis is connected to (Behavioral) Science. How do the 8 Octalysis Core Drives relate to big names in Behavioral Science like Daniel Kahnemann, Richard Thaler, Ryan Deci and Abraham Maslov.


Octalysis: backed by numbers

For a decade, Octalysis has been used to design and develop highly engaging user journeys in digital and non-digital experiences. Many large and smaller companies have successfully launched Octalysis powered applications that have empowered over a billion users worldwide. Let that number sink in: 17% of all human beings have used applications that we helped create. Octalysis Gamification truly has a wide reach.

The number of people that use Octalysis Design products don’t mean much without knowing what the impact was of these designs. So let’s have a look at some sample impact numbers:

Finance: increased revenue of a bank with US$ 800 million (113% growth)

Consumer Goods: annual sales up 30% (for a conglomerate)

Hospitality: increased Sales Revenue with 712%

Education: online course completions up by 350%


So Octalysis has the qualitative and quantitative numbers. It’s easy to understand why so many companies are attracted to Octalysis.


Science backed: that extra assurance you need

So you are a product manager and you want to invest in producing a truly sticky user experience for your product. You check out the ROI numbers of The Octalysis Group, and discuss your findings with your Leadership Team.

“Great numbers! But what is the basis for their success? Luck? A great client team? I am not so sure whether this is for us”.

This is where you could quote the 1500 PhD theses and academic research quotes we mentioned above. But why stop there? You can explain Octalysis in purely scientific terms to make an even bigger impact! Let’s have a look:



The Self Determination Theory (SDT)

This famous theory of human motivation concerns itself with how humans are motivated intrinsically, so independent of external rewards. Many, but not all, of their findings are based on work with school children and learning settings.

According to the founders of SDT, Drs. Deci and Ryan, satisfying three basic universal and innate needs are essential for psychological health and well-being. These needs are said to be the universal and innate need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

All of these relate mostly to intrinsic motivation: the activity itself is rewarding. People do not need to be rewarded with points, money or presents to perform. Making users feel autonomy, developing competence and feeling relatedness is where the sweet spot is for learning, innovation and training.


Science gamification

You can see how Octalysis beautifully encapsulates SDT: it is covered by what we call Octalysis White Hat Motivation Core Drives 1, 2, 3 as well as Core Drive 5. Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling has been aligned with “purpose”. Purpose is not integral to SDT, but we believe that all humans intrinsically like to feel some purpose in their lives/journeys.

Science gamification


I love how this dominant psychological theory is integrated so well in The Octalysis Framework!

Behavioral Economics

Now, we know that life’s not all about intrinsic motivation and education or innovation. We also need to pay attention to motivation that humans feel in terms of direction, efficiency and other more extrinsically related concepts. For example: why do we want to collect things? Interact with scarce goods? Avoid losses? And why do we follow others? All of these things are discussed in the work of Behavioral Economics scientists. Behavioral Economy studies seemingly irrational behavior, and has deep seated logical explanations.

Science gamification

Daniel Kahnemann was awarded a Nobel Prize for economics for his work on Loss Aversion. His colleague Richard Thaler also later received the same award for his work on Behavioral Economics. So we know we should pay attention to this scientific school of thought!

So how does Octalysis relate to Behavioral Economics?

Science gamification

Pretty well actually. In fact, Octalysis covers ALL major aspects of Behavioral Economics through the Octalysis 8 Core Drives for Human Motivation.

So we have the intrinsic motivational side covered, and now we also have coverage from Behavioral Economics. Are we missing any significant scientific links? Maybe one…


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy is an old (1943) but popular framework. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest, most fundamental needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization and transcendence at the top. In other words, the idea is that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher-level needs.


Science gamification

The original hierarchy states that a lower level must be completely satisfied and fulfilled before moving onto a higher pursuit. However, today scholars prefer to think of these levels as continuously overlapping each other. This means that the lower levels may take precedence back over the other levels at any point in time.

So let’s see how Octalysis shapes up versus Maslow:


Science gamification


It’s easy to see how Octalysis Black Hat Core Drives (Core Drives 6, 7 and 8) deal with survival and safety. This is where our fight or flight responses are nurtured and where human motivation gets affected by urgency motivators.

Interestingly it rhymes fully with how humans interact with new things in life (see: also Octalysis and the Reptile Brain). When we see something new we first decide whether this is of interest and whether it is something that we need to prime our engagement with or not.We decide if we need to engage to preserve/enhance our physiological wellbeing and safety. Now we are ready to evaluate whether the new thing is fully safe by looking for social proof (Love/Belonging). Much later do we seek out whether the new experience gives us a sense of agency and purpose. Having strategy and a sense of purpose (branding) comes into play at much higher levels.

Other Behavioral Science and Psychology influences

The Octalysis Framework is strongly underpinned by a host of other Scientific specializations. One example is the Positive Psychology School, whose most famous proponent is Martin Seligman . This school studies what makes life most worth living. It focuses on both individual and societal well-being. Most of what they study pertains to Octalysis White Hat Motivation as well as Octalysis Right Brain Core Drives. It is all about making us feel good, feel in control, feel a sense of self, and feel connected to others just like us.

A bit older, but no less relevant is The Behaviorist School of Thought with famous scientists like Ivan Pavlov (known from the Pavlov Effect) and B. F. Skinner (known for his work on the addictive power of unpredictable stimulation). This School is all about habit formation and addiction and liaises with Octalysis Core Drives 2, 6, 7 and 8. The Octalysis Group applies this expertise to habit formation projects in health care (taking your medication daily); wellness (dieting programs); environmental activity (motivating people to do daily ‘green’ actions).


The Octalysis Framework: backed by numbers AND scientific evidence

We have seen how Octalysis has proven its worth in the marketplace. It has improved the life of over 1 billion users and Octalysis designs have made people and companies a lot more profitable as well.

At the same time, Octalysis is the only gamification framework that is backed fully by science. Moreover, it makes this science actionable. No longer is the science there only in research reports. Now the power of science is at your finger tips to improve your company – ready to make your products better, more profitable. Ready to improve your co-workers professional performance. Ready to improve the world.

Let us know if you have any queries on how we can help you transform your company through science and sound gamification design..



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