Correcting the Misconceptions Around the Philanthropist User Type and Purpose

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One of the things that happens when you create popular frameworks and the like, is that people like to interpret them to fit their needs. This is why I created the User Types Hexad in the first place – so that I no longer had to interpret Bartle’s Player Types to fit my needs in gamification!

However, what can happen is that the interpretations become more popular than the original and if you are not careful the meaning of the original is lost. This is true of one of the types in my Hexad – and I am not innocent in the issue! I have allowed the change to happen, even integrating it into the types and my motivation framework RAMP. The type in question is the Philanthropist and the motivation Purpose.

When I first started, these both had a clear meaning, but I have allowed that to get diluted and confused, so I wanted to set the record straight and offer some reasoning behind it all.

Meaningful Purpose and Altruistic Purpose

First, we will tackle Purpose. When I speak about purpose in RAMP, I am specifically talking about altruistic purpose. This is the desire to help others in some way1 – hence the type that evolved from that is the Philanthropist. You can define philanthropy on a basic level as “The desire to increase the well-being of humankind”. That is what I had in mind.

The other type of purpose, the one that I have allowed to creep into the definition is meaningful purpose. This is more a desire to understand the meaning of what you are doing. The analogy I use for this I call the little cog.

The Little Cog: By Andrzej Marczewski Age 38
There was once a little cog who spent all day spinning as fast as he could in a huge machine.
One day he rather sadly asked a bigger cog “Why am I doing this? Surely, I am of no importance to such a huge machine, especially compared to the likes of you larger cogs?”
The big cog smiled at him and replied: “Slow down a moment and see what happens to the rest of us.” The small cog slowed down and saw that every other cog began to slow down as well. He looked at the big cog as if to ask a question.
The big cog said to him “Every cog in this machine has a job and a significance. If one stops doing their job, the rest are no longer able to do theirs either. Every cog, no matter how big or little, is important to the machine.”
With that the little cog smiled, realising that his existence had a meaning. He had a purpose and without him, no other cog could fully achieve theirs.
From that day on, he happily span as fast as he could.

This type of purpose has been explored by Adam M. Grant in his paper The Significance of Task Significance: Job Performance Effects, Relational Mechanisms, and Boundary Conditions 2. In this paper, Grant concludes that job performance increases when people have a better understanding of its significance.

Task significance cues may thereby play an important role in contributing to the performance of employees and to the welfare of the individuals, groups, communities, and societies they serve

This type of meaningful purpose is experienced by everyone, it is not unique to Philanthropist types.


When you look back at Self-Determination Theory 3, purpose is not included as a separate motivation. That was Dan Pink’s change for his book Drive 4. I have read somewhere and I cannot for the life of me find the reference, that altruistic purpose is part of relatedness. I will see if I can add a reference soon. However, recent data based on the User Type test would tend to agree with this. Socialisers and Philanthropists seem to share a lot of traits. Obviously, once the data is validated I will share it. When you think about it though, that makes a lot of sense. Philanthropists want to help people – you need people for that! The reason I separated them was because I felt that there is a difference between encouraging philanthropic behaviour and pro-social behaviour. This meant that these two types of users, though connected, are no identical. You can have a person who is motivated by social connectedness, but that does not see much joy in answering questions for others!

In a nutshell

  • Philanthropists are focused on altruistic purpose – a desire to improve the lives of others.
  • Purpose, as described in RAMP, is focused on altruistic purpose.
  • Meaningful purpose, the desire to understands one’s place in the world and derive meaning from that, is a universal motivation that is not specific to any one User Type.


  1. Sigmund K, Hauert C. Altruism. Curr Biol. 2002;12(8):R270-R272. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)00797-2.
  2. Grant AM. The significance of task significance: Job performance effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions. J Appl Psychol. 2008;93(1):108-124. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.93.1.108.
  3. Deci EL, Koestner R, Ryan RM. A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychol Bull. 1999;125:627-668-700. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.627.
  4. Pink DH. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Canongate; 2009. doi:10.1002/casp.


Now then – who wants to do the illustrations for “The Little Cog” so we can release it as a children’s book 😀

And don’t forget, there are still signed copies of “Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play” to be bought here

Also published on Medium.

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Andrzej Marczewski
About Andrzej Marczewski twitter facebook    
Gamification Consultant with Motivait. I love to write about it, talk about it and bore people to death with it! If you really want to get to know me, check out the About page.

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