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ARCS Motivation Model


Techniques General persuasion > Using repetition > ARCS Motivation Model

AttentionRelevance | Confidence | Satisfaction | Discussion | See also


The ARCS model was developed by John Keller as a framework for use in instructional design.



Keller defines three ways and sub-categories for gaining attention:

  • Perceptual Arousal: stimulating senses.
    • Concreteness: Using specific examples to which they can relate.
    • Incongruity and Conflict: Stimulation through contradictory suggestions.
    • Humor: Using fun to make learning enjoyable.
  • Inquiry Arousal: stimulating thinking.
    • Participation: Using role-play or hands-on direct experience.
    • Inquiry: Asking them questions that provoke thinking.
  • Variability: Using a range of different teaching methods.


Without attention, there can be no learning, persuasion or changing of minds. Attention can be gained particularly by arousal.

The way to manage attention is to:

  • Grab attention with perceptual arousal.
  • Sustain short- to medium-term attention with inquiry arousal.
  • Keep attention over the longer term through the use of variability.

Perceptual arousal is the use of sensory stimuli to grab attention. This can be achieved through such as novelty and surprise.

Inquiry arousal is the piquing of curiosity by such as posing challenges and asking questions.

Variability is aimed at sustaining attention through use of such principle as surprise and contrast. This can be implemented by varying the methods used to manage attention. Changing stimuli where just the contrast of change causes the person to seek to discover what is different. Variation also helps people with different learning styles.

Variability can be using smaller and varying chunks, changing stimuli, changing challenges, using different media. It is also important to pace the changes to align with the rate of learning.



Keller offers three main categories with several sub-categories:

  • Goal Orientation: Focus on what they want to achieve.
    • Present Worth: Showing how knowledge will help them today.
    • Future Usefulness: Showing how knowledge will help them in the future.
  • Motive Matching: Aligning with their basic motivations.
    • Needs Matching: Communicating to align with their needs.
    • Choice: Giving them options and control over their learning.
      something new.
  • Familiarity: Using and building recognition.
    • Modeling: Showing them how to behave.
    • Experience: Using their existing knowledge and skills.


For something to  be of interest and to sustain attention it must be relevant to the person, making sense to them and helping them towards what they see as 'success'.

Support or align with a person's needs and goals is important, so when they think about it, they see it either as help or at least doing no harm. Most people will have a preference for things that help short-term desires.

We all see the world through the lenses of our upbringing, education, preferences, models, biases and so on. This makes communication difficult as we also speak through these filters, assuming that others either have the same way of understanding or can interpret what we say. And mostly they can, to a sufficient extent, but sometimes it is harder, particularly when we are seeking to change their minds rather than just give them familiar information.

Making things relevant to them means talking their language, speaking to be understood. It means playing to their learning style.



Keller suggests several strategies for learning that will boost confidence:

  • Performance Requirements: Use standards to set expectations and provide evidence of learning.
  • Success Opportunities: Give them many ways to learn and succeed.
  • Personal Control: Give them control over what they do so they feel it is they who are succeeding.


Confidence is about freedom from doubt, in particular about one's own abilities. A lack of confidence can result in people not trying enough, giving up or not even starting because they think they will fail.

While overconfidence can also be a problem, a lack of confidence in one's own potential and ability to achieve holds many people back.

The use of standards may seem oppressive but when they are achieved they give the confidence of knowing that the person has reached the same level as other people.

Building confidence can be a delicate and careful affair, challenging the person to stretch themselves, but no so far that they are doomed to failure. Confidence-building is often best done incrementally, giving them a succession of small and secure steps to take. With each success they will grow in confidence.



Keller suggests three way to gain satisfaction:

  • Intrinsic Reinforcement: Encourage pleasure of learning for its own sake or to achieve higher goals.
  • Extrinsic Rewards: Give rewards and direct encouragement to learn.
  • Equity: Keep standards high so they know what they are achieving.


Satisfaction is a form of closure that is felt when a person meets their goals or when needs are met.

Intrinsic motivation is motivation driven by inner factors such as beliefs, values, personal goals and so on. is the most powerful form of motivation. However it is not always used as it requires greater skills to elicit and sustain.

Extrinsic motivation is that which is created through external factors, typically promise of reward or punishment. This causes the person to focus on the consequences rather than the actions, and can result in dysfunctional ways of behaving, often because fear is common factor.

Keeping standards high is important, as meeting them gives a certain satisfaction in achieving the same as others have achieved, thus making the person feel equal with them.

See also

AIDA, Arousal principle


Keller, J.M. (1979). Motivation and instructional design: A theoretical perspective. Journal of
Instructional Development
, 2,4, 26-34.

Keller, J.M. (1983). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design. Enschede,
The Netherlands: Toegepaste Onderwijskunde, Technische Hogeshool Twente.

Keller, J.M. (1984). The use of the ARCS model of motivation in teacher training. In Shaw, K., & Trott, A.J. (Eds.). Aspects of Educational Technology, Volume XVII. London: Kogan Page, pp. 140 - 145.

Keller, J.M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10,3, 2-10.

Keller, J. M. and Suzuki, K. (1988). Use of the ARCS Motivation Model in Courseware Design. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Instructional Designs for Microcomputer Courseware. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Keller, J.M. (2010). Motivational Design for Learning and Performance: The ARCS Model Approach, Springer


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