Cognitively heavy tasks in survey and research programmes generally experience high levels of participant attrition. One potential solution is to gamify these tasks to make them more engaging: increasing participant willingness to take part and reducing attrition.
However, such an approach must balance task validity with introducing entertaining gamelike elements. Researchers investigated the effects of gamelike features on participant attrition using a between-subjects, longitudinal online testing study.
They used three variants of a common cognitive task, the stop signal task, with a single gamelike feature in each: one variant where points were rewarded for performing optimally, another where the task was given a graphical theme, and a third variant which was a standard stop signal task and served as a control condition.
Participants completed four compulsory test sessions over four consecutive days before entering a six-day voluntary testing period where they faced a daily decision to either drop out or continue taking part. Participants were paid for each session they completed.
Researchers saw no evidence for an effect of gamification on attrition, with participants dropping out of each variant at equal rates. Our findings raise doubts about the ability of gamification to increase engagement with cognitively complex tasks.