The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework

The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework

Any serious framework that aims to explain and predict human behavior needs to build on solid scientific evidence. The Octalysis Framework does just that and combines all this evidence in a unified framework for human behavioral analysis. It merges scientific insights from the following academic fields into one coherent analytical and actionable framework for human motivational design:

Behavorial Economics

This scientific field studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the decisions of individuals and the impact of different kinds of behavior, in different environments of varying experimental values.  Behavioral models typically integrate insights from psychology, neuroscience and microeconomic theory; in so doing, these behavioral models cover a range of concepts, methods, and fields.

The Octalysis Framework most notably has incorporated crucial insights from Noble Prize winners (in particular Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky) and other acclaimed scientists in the field (Richard Thaler; Robert Cialdini; Dan Ariely et al). Most of these insights pertain to heuristics and biases that lead people’s behaviors rather than rational analysis.

Sample literature list:

  • Kahneman, Daniel; Tversky, Amos (1979). “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk”
  • Thaler, Richard H. 1992. The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life.
  • Thaler, Richard H. 1993. Advances in Behavioral Finance
  • Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Positive/ Motivational Psychology

In particular: the Self Determination Theory (SDT) by Deci, Ryan et al. SDT is a theory of human motivation that concerns people’s innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind choices that people. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined.

In addition, The Octalysis Framework integrates insights from Flow Theory, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. It is characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.

Sample literature list:

  • Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation.
  • Deci, E. L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation.
  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour
  • Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow : the psychology of optimal experience.

Other Sources

We have been influenced by many other sources as well, in particular from the realm of Game Design and UI/UX Interfacing. Jesse Schell’s A Book of Lenses in particular has been valuable. We consider these sources very valuable but since they are not scientific, we shall not detail them further at the moment.

If you want to know more about the proven science behind our work and the Octalysis Framework itself, or how we can help you create great engagement please contact Joris Beerda:


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2 Comments for “The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework”

Dan Laurence


It’s great that “proven science” is behind different elements of the Octalysis framework, but an integrated theoretical framework really should be something validated by it’s own research, scales, meta-analysis or some for of data. Perhaps your work is now at a stage where this can be articulated?


Unfortunately, a lot of the results and numbers we see are with clients behind confidentiality requirements and so hard to share those. Since everything we do we consume a good amount of (financial) resources with our team/headcount, it is rather economical to allocate massive resource to prove the scientific side of things. That is usually done with a study by academic institutions that are funded for that very purpose.

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