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Scratching the surface of persuasive technologies

I am currently exploring the research world to find an inspiration for my PhD topic. A European Union project, of which I am taking part called Entropy, aims to manipulate people to adopt more energy efficient lifestyles. We are planning to achieve this goal by interacting with people without annoying or spamming them. Of course initiating even a small change in people’s behavior is hard, but not impossible. We are using gamification strategies to convince people to change their behavior to be more energy efficient. However, being oversimplistic or applying these strategies blindly might lead to have limited benefits or even worse to fail completely.

These issues urged me to look around little bit more and as I went further, I discovered there is a significant amount of work on ICT as a persuasion tool. BJ Fogg, who runs a research lab on this subject at Stanford University, seems to be the pioneer of this field. I have been studying his Fogg Behavior Model for couple days, I have already found it quite interesting. Dr Fogg, defines behavior as an equation, not as a formalization but for the sake of simplicity. He states that behavior change heavily depends on ability and motivation. To me, motivation is giving a reason to people for changing a behavior. Although ability initially sounds like matter of skills or training, Fogg says that it is more related to the difficulty level of a goal. For example, two different defines of an interaction, one of which requires a form to be filled, the other one only to click a button to acvieve the same goal. Even if a person is slightly more motivated to perform the prior for some reason, the simplicity of the latter can be way more appealing.

Last but not least, a third factor called trigger defined by Dr. Fogg plays an important role at throwing a person over the behavior change threshold. Having motivation and ability to perform a change on a behavior is usually not enough, a timely trigger is also needed. This trigger can be in a form of simple reminder. Triggers also can be used as a factor to increase one of the other two parameters in the equation: to motivate people or increase their ability, that is making a task easier.

Fogg Behavior Model[1]

I found all these stuff quite interesting. I believe ICT can be a really good medium to persuade people to change their behavior in a socially benficial way. I have created this post out of what I got from [1]. If this post somehow awaken some interest in you, more resources and explanations exist here.



[1] Fogg, B. (2009). A behavior model for persuasive design. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology.

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