Goal Gradient Effect: How rewards can improve your customer experience
Keep motivation high with this psychological tool
“If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.”
- Zig Ziglar
What is the Goal Gradient Effect?
Coined by behaviorist Clark Hull in 1932, the Goal Gradient Effect states that as people get closer to a reward, they speed up their behavior to get to their goal faster. In other words, people are motivated by how much is left to reach their target, not how far they’ve come.
People are motivated by how much is left to reach their target, not how far they’ve gone.
As Hull put it in his original research:
“Rats in a maze run faster as they near the food box than at the beginning of the path.”
Examples of the Goal Gradient Effect in Action
The closer customers get to their goal, the more encouraged they become to finish. But they can’t get motivated if they don’t know where the finish is.
For this reason, you’ll often see the Goal Gradient Effect at work in gamification elements like progress bars, badges, and profile completion percentages. It can be applied anywhere users are encouraged to complete a big task by achieving smaller objectives.
1. Uber: Using gamification to make progress clear
The biggest pain point for Uber customers is waiting for their ride. To make the time pass more quickly, Uber uses a car animation on a map to indicate progress.
This application of the Goal Gradient Effect is interesting because it isn’t driving customers to complete a checkout process or finish filling out their dating profile. Instead, this use of the Goal Gradient can change customer perceptions of time by providing a transparent waiting process. The closer your Uber gets to you, the faster the time seems to pass.
The closer your Uber gets to you, the faster the time seems…