Towards understanding the effects of individual gamification elements on intrinsic motivation and performance

Elisa D. Mekler*, Florian Brühlmann, Alexandre N. Tuch, Klaus Opwis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

265 Citations (Scopus)


Research on the effectiveness of gamification has proliferated over the last few years, but the underlying motivational mechanisms have only recently become object of empirical research. It has been suggested that when perceived as informational, gamification elements, such as points, levels and leaderboards, may afford feelings of competence and hence enhance intrinsic motivation and promote performance gains. We conducted a 2 × 4 online experiment that systematically examined how points, leaderboards and levels, as well as participants' goal causality orientation influence intrinsic motivation, competence and performance (tag quantity and quality) in an image annotation task. Compared to a control condition, game elements did not significantly affect competence or intrinsic motivation, irrespective of participants' causality orientation. However, participants' performance did not mirror their intrinsic motivation, as points, and especially levels and leaderboard led to a significantly higher amount of tags generated compared to the control group. These findings suggest that in this particular study context, points, levels and leaderboards functioned as extrinsic incentives, effective only for promoting performance quantity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-534
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Gamification
  • Motivation
  • Self-determination theory


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