Gamifying Task Performance: Using Leaderboards to Support Goal Setting

Gamification is increasingly used in work places to enhance employees’ task performance. Goal setting interventions to enhance motivation and ultimately task performance have also been examined by researchers. However, merging gamification and goal setting as one intervention has not been explored. Landers, Bauer, and Callan (2017) examined the use of leaderboard to gamify goal setting in an experiment.

In this experiment, undergraduates were assigned to four groups where goals of varying levels of difficulty were set as students list as many uses as they can for a knife. They were either told to “do your best”, “aim for 15 uses” (easy goal), “aim for 39 uses” (difficult goal), or “aim for 53 uses” (impossible goal). For students who were assigned to the leaderboard group, they were shown a leaderboard with pre-established scores of five fictitious players corresponding to goals ranging from easy to impossible goals. Results showed that participants in the leaderboard group performed better than participants in the do-your-best and easy-goal groups but performed on par with the difficult-goal group. Moreover, the effectiveness of leaderboard was moderated by goal commitment. This suggested that for leaderboards to influence performance, users have to believe that the leaderboard goals are worthwhile goals that they want to achieve.

Given that students came up with the most uses of a knife in both the leaderboard and difficult-goal groups, the authors concluded that gamifying task performance through goals set via leaderboards can be an effective approach to motivate students. Instead of examining gamification alone as an intervention, the authors called for a more integrative approach in studying gamification by examining the effect of gamification with existing psychological theories, such as goal setting.

Landers, R. N., Bauer, K. N., & Callan, R. C. (2017). Gamification of task performance with leaderboards: A goal setting experiment. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 508-515.

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