Using a Digital Game to Bring About Behavior Change


One thing that is known for sure about creating a positive behavior change within an organization is that a “one-and-done” experience rarely results in the desired change.

For any enterprise wide change-focused program to be successful, frequent reminders and recall activities related to the desired behaviors and attitudes are required to bring about the necessary changes. For example, changes in attitudes toward safety or customers or diversity and inclusion.

If any organization wants to change behavior, efforts need to be made to continually reach out over time with a consistent message. Research has shown that spacing out both practicing of content (i.e. reviewing, studying, reminding) and retrieval of content (i.e. quizzing, testing) are two of cognitive psychology’s most empirically validated concepts for increasing learning and behavior changes (Burns & Gurung, 2020).

The two concepts are known in the academic literature as spaced practice and retrieval practice and both of these concepts are incorporated into the card-based activities within Enterprise Game Stack. While the activities don’t seem on the surface to be quizzes or tests, they are indeed, causing the player to retrieve content in a manner similar to a quizzing activity.

Spaced Practice

The concept of spaced practice involves spreading out studying of content over a long time period, with optimal learning occurring when the studying is spaced rather than conducted all at once as in a single training activity. This is called a mass study event and is not as impactful as spreading out the learning activities. (Dunlosky et al., 2013).

The large body of research evidence supports the process of designing activities with spaced practice to boost a learner’s recall of content and result in behavioral changes. A study by Ramachandran et al (2013) looking at whether or not mobile phone messaging encouraging lifestyle change that could reduce incident type 2 diabetes in Indian men with impaired glucose tolerance found that sending behaviorally focused mobile phone messages reduced the cumulative incidence of type 2 diabetes which is a disease that can be controlled through changes in behavior.

Sending out card decks for sorting after a particularly crucial or important instructional experience is a perfect example of using spaced practice to help change and shape behaviors over time.

Retrieval Practice

The second tenant, retrieval practice is built on the large body of literature surrounding the testing effect, where individuals show better retention of information when they have been tested on it (Adesope, Trevisan, & Sundararajan, 2017; Ariel & Karpicke, 2018; Agarwal, 2019; Burns & Gurung, 2020; Pan & Rickard, 2018).

Powerful Combination

Combined these two concepts have a positive impact on retrieval and recall and a positive impact on behavior change.  Research published by Shaw et al. (2011) examining the impact of spaced practice and retrieval practice on clinical behavior resulted in self-reported behavior change.

Again, this would be the benefit of using a digital card game created in Enterprise Game Stack to support pull-through after instruction on important behaviors where an organization wants to promote behavior change.

Suggested Approaches

One way of approaching the use of digital card games within an organization is to create a monthly card sort activity played for no longer than five-minutes that touches key learning points and behavioral issues within the organization.

Having employees play that game provides immediate engagement (as opposed to a survey or traditionally formatted quiz), provides a familiar and comfortable interaction, and reinforces critical behaviors that the organization wants to see in their employees.  A regular issuing of a card activity can go a long way toward reinforcing behaviors (and it can be fun).

Alternatively, an organization could consider leveraging Enterprise Games Stack activities before a meeting on key topics. One good method to do a sort game about issues or obstacles and then use the anonymous data to help determine the direction of the meeting.


To truly impact behavior, focus on long term reinforcement and engagement with those whose behavior you are seeking to change. Card games are a great way to introduce, remind and encourage employees to engage with topics. The continual reminder and reinforcement will help change behaviors. 


Adesope, O. O., Trevisan, D. A., & Sundararajan, N. (2017). Rethinking the use of tests: A metaanalysis of practice testing. Review of Educational Research, 87, 659–70.

Ariel, R., & Karpicke, J. D. (2018). Improving Self-Regulated Learning with a Retrieval Practice Intervention. Grantee Submission, 24(1), 43–56.

Agarwal, P. K. (2019). Retrieval practice and Bloom’s taxonomy: Do students need fact knowledge before higher order learning? Journal of Educational Psychology, 111, 189–209.

Bahrick, H. P., & Hall, L. K. (2005). The importance of retrieval failures to long-term retention: A metacognitive explanation of the spacing effect. Journal of Memory and Language, 52, 566-577.

Burns, K. C., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2020). A longitudinal multisite study of the efficacy of retrieval and spaced practice in introductory psychology. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

Karpicke, J., & Bauernschmidt, A. (2011). Spaced retrieval: Absolute spacing enhances learning regardless of relative spacing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37(5), 1250–1257.

Kerfoot, B.P., Kearney, M. C., Connelly, D., Ritchey, M. L. (2009) Interactive Spaced Education to Assess and Improve Knowledge of Clinical Practice Guidelines: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Annals of Surgery, 249(5), 774-749.

Maddox, G. B. (2016). Understanding the underlying mechanism of the spacing effect in verbal learning: A case for encoding variability and study-phase retrieval. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 28(6), 684-706.

Shaw, T., Long, A., Chopra, S. & Kerfoot, P. (2011). Impact on Clinical Behavior of Face-to-Face Continuing Medical Education Blended with Online Spaced Education: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions: 31(2), 103-108.

Vlah, H.A., C.M. Sandhofer, and Bjork, R.A., (2014) Equal spacing and Expanding Schedules in children’s categorization and generalization. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 123:129-137.

Need your own game?

If you want to create your own digital card game to help increase engagement and combine corporate learning with a little bit of fun, contact us for a demo to learn how easy is it to create effective, impactful digital card games to connect learners over a distance, drive home key learning points and track learner progress.

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