Dick Coffey attended 781 consecutive University of Alabama football games. Meg Ruh has been navigating illness, storms and night surfing every day for seven yearsEffect To save. John Sutherland ran at least a mile every day for more than 50 years.
The streak, i.e. keeping a particular activity in a chain, has the power to force behavior and marketers have taken this into account. Marketing researchers Jackie Silverman and Alexandra Barash recently documented 101 unique examples of apps that use streaks to track the number of consecutive days users complete a task. Examples of these apps include Snapchat, Candy Crush Saga, Wordle, and the language app Duolingo. There are even apps that focus solely on line tracing.
What makes fonts so attractive? I am interested in consumer behavior and decision making. To gain insight into lines and their motivational effect, I investigated this phenomenon.
What is font?
There is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a streak, so I tried to define this phenomenon. I propose four basic characteristics based on the input of people who maintain the fonts and how the fonts are described in popular media.
First, lines require two types of parameters: temporary and non-variable performance parameters. In other words, rules set by the line holder or others define what it means to successfully complete an activity and the timeline for doing so. For example, the line might mean that someone does fifty push-ups a day.
Second, the script owner attributes the completion of the activity largely to its design.
Third, a streak is a series of the same completed activities that the bearer of the streak considers continuous.
Fourth, the owner of the line calculates the duration of the series. For example, the owner of the streak can tell you exactly how many consecutive business days he or she has been working or know the exact date the streak began.
This definition distinguishes the line of activity from the lines of victory and streaks of happiness. Unlike lines of activity, lines of victory depend on the performance of others, the opponent, while lines of happiness involve outcomes beyond the control of the line holder.
My definition also emphasizes the fact that there are lines Be different for everyone. Some people who have completed a continuous, objective series of activity may not see it as a line. Others who do not complete the activity every time they have the opportunity may think they are on their way ahead.
Is it a line, a habit, or a plural?
People often have behavioral patterns or a repetitive way of behaving in a given situation. Streaming is one form of behavioral pattern, but there are more. Most people have reflexive habits and are motivated by context. For example, many people fasten their seat belts without thinking when they get into a car.
This automatic aspect distinguishes habit from calligraphy. The line requires its owner to adopt a strategy to accomplish the activity in different situations or contexts. For example, someone who runs at least two kilometers every day may need to plan a session carefully if they are traveling to a different time zone.
It’s tempting to develop this habit, because you have to think about it less. However, I have found that the challenge of completing the activity can actually motivate many calligraphy holders.
Failure to perform a habitual behavior once will have little effect on a person’s likelihood of performing that behavior in the future. But if you don’t complete a quest that’s part of a series, the series ends.
For some people, a broken line is a disappointment for the future: “The line is broken.” Why should I keep doing this? For others, it increased their resolve: “The line is broken. I need to get a new one as soon as possible.”
Group initiation is another form of behavioral stereotyping. Groups usually consist of disparate objects linked by a common meaning. For example, American comedian Jay Leno is known for his collection of antique and exclusive cars. But unlike a chain, a collection doesn’t end if someone can’t add to it when the opportunity arises. I’ve come to the conclusion that a set of experiences or stories is often a side effect of having a streak.
Why do lines motivate you?
By tapping into different psychological drivers of behavior, streaks can motivate people in different ways.
In general, the streak adds a higher goal (holding the streak) to a lower goal (completing an individual activity). Lines also add structure to an activity, and structure can simplify thinking and decision making. How important achieving goals or structure is to you can affect your commitment to a plan.
I have also found that the way the line is organized can affect the line holder’s commitment. For example, a meditation series of twenty minutes a day may be more engaging and lead to greater dedication than a meditation series of at least 140 minutes a week. Although the amount of meditation is the same in both cases, daily meditation adds structure, which simplifies the decision-making process and encourages the person to engage in helpful behaviors on a regular basis.
Chains can ensure that the underlying activity is perceived as a game, by establishing rules and expressing the outcome in numbers. Many people actually enjoy the challenge that the game presents.
Finally, I found that activities generate more commitment when they are more relevant to one’s identity. For a religious person, a daily series of prayer may be more attractive than a daily series of wordplay, because prayer can be a way to demonstrate a desired identity to others.
Although lines can dictate behavior, they do not motivate all people in all situations. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Some people are put off by the idea of having a line, because they worry about being forced to stick to it. This is reflected in the comments of one former calligraphy runner: “I realized that if I let it, the calligraphy could become a ‘thing’ that controlled my life, my travels, and the people around me.”
Ribbons and the New Year
As the New Year approaches, many people resolve to engage in self-improvement behaviors that promote better mental or physical health. People often start their streaks on January 1 or on other important days, such as holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries of notable events. These temporary landmarks add meaning and structure to the line and create a “new beginning effect.”
Although many people make New Year’s resolutions, only a small percentage of people complete them. My research suggests that structuring a resolution as a sequential plan may be the boost some people need to stick with it well into the new year — and perhaps longer.
Translated by: Rani Škrabanja