365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #4 Give People Autonomy

screenshot from Fluenz language softwareIn the previous blog post in this series I wrote that one of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery – and that breaking things into small pieces and showing progress through the pieces encourages the desire for mastery.

Another tip for stimulating the desire for mastery is to give people autonomy.  When people feel that they have some control over what they are doing and how they do it then their desire for mastery increases. They will then be motivated to continue and keep learning.

If people feel that they don’t have any control or autonomy then they lose the desire to learn and do more – they lose the desire to master whatever task you are asking them to do.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you have created a language learning app. The desire for mastery will be automatically in play if the person wants to learn a language. However, if you want people to continue using the app, and use it frequently and often, then you need to do more than just present lessons in the app. One way to further stimulate the desire for mastery, is to give them some control over how they use the app. You can provide different types of exercises and interactions, such as listening, writing, or speaking the language, and let them choose which exercises and activities they need or want, and in what order to do them. If they feel they have control over how quickly they go through the lessons, which ones they repeat,  which activities to engage in, and in what order, then they will be more motivated to keep learning.

What do you think? Have you used tried giving autonomy to keep people motivated?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

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Posted in motivation, persuasion
2 comments on “365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #4 Give People Autonomy
  1. Thomas van den Berg says:

    Hi Susan,

    Nice blog post! I fully agree, but yet I wonder if autonomy (or facilitating individual learning styles) is as powerful in boosting desire for mastery as, for example, rewarding by showing the progress they made so far? Can it also trigger a release of dopamine?

    And would giving autonomy also work for people who need directions or don’t feel comfortable by having choice in an environment they don’t really know?

  2. Christina Tripp says:

    I can personally attest to the importance of allowing autonomy because I am currently going through an online course that has completed eliminate all autonomy for learners. I’m expected to click through, follow every link and do it in the order decided by the designer. It’s only history (not a method that builds in stages), but I’m not allowed to read the modules in the order I might choose, nor read ahead then do the tests later. Each step is unlocked only when I “complete” the package, which simply means clicking all the pages. I could have been interested in this course, but I’ve tuned out to the content and I’m just doing the motions. What a waste of everyone’s time.

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Welcome to The Brain Lady Blog

I'm a Ph.D. psychologist and I write and videoblog about how to apply psychology and brain science research to understand how people think, work, and behave. For more information about me and about the Weinschenk Institute, check out the the Team W website.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
The "Brain Lady"

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