April 2009 in Claremont CA (outside LA)
4th year, alternates between west coast and Europe
3 days plus pre-conference seminars
Peer-reviewed papers and posters
Papers published in ACM library? (they have ACM copyright, but aren’t there yet)
Examples – non-profit wants to increase donations on their site, role-playing video
game to let teenagers learn to resist peer pressure to smoke. Lot of health-related
Mobile apps are especially promising because your phone is always with you and GPS
knows where you are. Separate Mobile Persuasion conference.
Starting with the experiments and moving toward practice. First I’ll touch on the
seminar I attended, then describe 4 lab studies and 3 field experiments that were
presented at the conference.
Then I’ll talk about 3 papers intended to help designers apply this stuff in the real
I found this 3-brain analogy useful
Complex – We don’t understand ourselves very well yet.
Brain imaging techniques are helping. Example of cash vs. credit card operating on
different areas of the brain.
Denial - Some of what we believe about ourselves is wrong. Much of what research
tells us, we don’t want to believe would work on us. And some things backfire.
Hard to change ourselves – no sci-fi manipulation yet.
HFI has a “PET” series – Persuasion, Emotion, Trust – pricy courses but also free
John Bargh et al from a dozen years ago. Make a sentence using 4 of these 5 words…
– extra word was “Rude”, polite, or neutral.
How long did it take people to interrupt experimenter – longer if they’d been looking
at polite words. People who got “old” words walked slower.
Words were affecting people’s behavior – but they didn’t realize it.
Plenty of research shows that we aren’t aware of manipulations like this.
4 lab studies that were presented at the conference. Most of these were done
scientifically – hypothesis, experimental design between subjects. Decent sample
sizes of 60 or 80 people.
Empathy is both verbal and non-verbal – tone of voice, expressions, etc.
Hypothesis was that an animated agent could do better at improving people’s moods
than just text, and that expressions of empathy would be helpful.
Mood of subjects was manipulated by having them do first an artificially easy task,
then set a goal, then a hard task to induce a mild negative mood. Then an
intervention, then more tasks (credibility of 2 web sites) and measurements of
subjects’ mood and memory. Funny video at the end.
Moods measured at 3 points, also got reactions to Mary
ECA = Embodied Conversational Agent. Not only did Mary have synthesized speech,
she also had the ability to show facial expressions.
3 variations of empathy: None, Empathy, Empathy+Expressitivity
2 modalities – text only, and Mary the ECA.
After the intervention, which was intended to bolster mood, the participants were
given some tasks to rate the credibility of 2 web sites.
Mary in (a) is when you’re responding – people don’t like avatars looking at them.
B, c were expressing empathy. D was encouragement
Results did not depend on subjects’ gender, English ability, nationality, or occupation.
Important to know that people liked Mary, because sometimes avatars creep people
2 subjects were removed because they were outliers – who felt very uncomfortable
with this type of intervention!
Similar-but-opposite effect was found in another study that looked at social dialogue
– in text only, it backfired.
I’m not trying to mock these guys for doing a bad experiment. It’s just really hard to
study these effects.
On the one hand, if you can’t do these things well, maybe you shouldn’t do them. On
the other hand, you probably don’t know if you’re doing them well until you try.
Before we go to the next paper, “Everyone must stand up right now.”
There is a name for what you probably just experienced. It’s called psychological
Consists of both feelings and negative thoughts.
Reactance happens when a perceived freedom is threatened, which motivates the
person to restore that freedom.
One example we’re probably familiar with is reverse psychology.
These guys also did a 2x3 experiment.
Their social agent was this cute little robot called the iCat.
What do you think they found?
Was there a difference between the low threat and high threat conditions?
Was there a difference as you go across each row? In other words, more reactance
with more social agency?
What if you combine the high threat with high social – do they give you an even
So the answers were yes, sort of, and no.
Definitely an effect between the low and high threat – the blue bars are less than the
Difference from low-med was significant; med-high was not. (This seemed to be true
of several studies – they thought there’d be different levels of effects but there
H3 predicted an interaction effect between high threat and high social, but this was
So what’s the practical application of this? One of my take-aways from this
conference was that negative persuasion doesn’t work very well if you’re trying to
change attitudes or achieve a lasting change in behavior.
Poignant example, not presented at the conference but in the references for the
paper I’ll discuss next.
Article about a German nursing home with a fake bus stop out front. Dementia
sufferers lack short-term memory but know that buses take them home.
Interesting ethical discussion… rationale is that people without short term memory
have a different reality than we do. And it avoids reactance between the caregivers
and residents by giving them a familiar behavior.
This next paper is about surveillance. Surveillance is also a part of PT, because people
behave differently when they know they’re being watched.
Significant ethical issues, but one of the reasons I really like this paper is they gave
these issues some careful thought.
Idea – old person living alone who wants to stay in their home. But one challenge for
caregivers is that the elder may wander away from home. Another is visitors who
might prey upon the elder.
They did a nice job of focusing their project… did not try to archive video, interpret
the image, or solve more than one problem.
They didn’t actually do a field experiment, just some focus groups.
90 trials, then rated consumption of all.
59 people (27 men, 22 women)
Showed people all 9 appliances and had them rate how much energy each one used.
3 were low and 6 were high.
What we’re looking at here is the average rating between the low-energy items (blue)
and high-energy items (purple).
Ideally we’d see a difference to indicate that people correctly identified each one.
Difference between sub- and supraliminal feedback wasn’t statistically significant
Does this mean that we can be subliminally primed to do things we don’t want to do?
Related - Karremans showed that subliminal priming with a brand name of a drink
increased choice for that brand, but only for participants who were thirsty.
Participants in this study had been given a goal to identify energy consumption, and
that was probably a really important aspect of the effect they found.
So far this has been mostly lab-based scientific experiments.
Real world is where behavior change matters.
Did you know: “One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as the average
person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, drinking, cleaning,
That factoid came from the co-authors of the next paper. Also:
16.8% of indoor water usage is for the shower
A typical shower uses between 8-50 gallons of water.
Would you put something on the monthly water bill?
Design is simple and elegant – no numbers, no punishment, just visual feedback right
there in the shower.
Show-Me is short for “shower meter.”
Small-scale study, but still interesting.
Questionnaires to assess attitudes toward water conservation, impressions of current
Even people who had the motivation to save water weren’t necessarily good at it.
Phases - day 1-4, determining how much they normally used (awareness phase)
Days 5-7, how low can they go? (experimental phase)
Days 7+, low, but still comfortable? (behavior change phase)
Note that they didn’t tell people they had to change their habits – they just gave
them this device.
Would have been interesting to see what happened after 6 months
Contrast with the previous study – this one took a buckshot approach.
Study took place in Japan, where they have this national “Team minus 6%” campaign.
Refers to Japan's commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a level of
6% below the 1990 level per the Kyoto Protocol.
Display installed in family’s living area (irony of using this to reduce electricity)
Avatar for each family member
Browser and phone interfaces to report activities.
Some method of measuring CO2 emissions. If emissions exceed target, water level
Choose eco-friendly actions from a list, your avatar’s speech bubble reflects it
Can see what other families are doing
If under your quota, sell credits or decorate your island
Type of incentives Persuasive techniques in EcoIsland
Individual psychological incentives
Protecting a family’s island not to sink
Buying a virtual item and decorating an island
Social psychological incentives
Cooperating with family members
Competing with other families
Emissions trading system
Learning Self-reporting style
As I’ll discuss in the next example, negative feedback probably isn’t the best way to
motivate long-term behavior change.
With a 4-week study, they probably didn’t get past the novelty effect – it was still a
My take – this kind of study is not necessarily something to emulate, but may be
useful when you’re looking for ideas.
Not many mobile apps at this year’s conference… there’s a separate MP conference,
plus many researchers are in Europe
Cardio pink, strength blue, flexibility white, walking sunflowers. Butterfly for meeting
primary weekly goal. Also had white butterfly for meeting alternate weekly goal – for
28 participants used it for 3 months. (Sunny used hers for 2.5 years. Knows that
punishment doesn’t work.)
This paper looked at the goal-setting aspects of the UbiFit.
Bolded ones are what they did, but they asked people about the others
People didn’t like the idea of choosing from established guidelines – expected they’d
be too easy/difficult
Assistance from a doctor was interesting mostly to people with some medical
condition (asthma, etc) who had done this in the past. Otherwise, doctors aren’t
necessarily seen as good sources of fitness advice
Group-set – mixed reviews. Sounded appealing at first. People mentioned
accountability and motivation, but the flip side is letting people down. Group
members need to have similar abilities/goals. Real life intervenes (weather, studying
Working with fitness expert was appealing to some, but would need to be
accompanied by an actual relationship. People wanted ability to modify goal (primary
or alternate), perhaps without telling the trainer
People liked calendar week starting on Sunday or Monday
People liked the reset – fresh start, structure, you don’t say “there’s always
tomorrow.” People who liked the rolling week tended to be active toward the end of
Other things they learned… don’t take flowers away – negative feedback discourages
use. People suggest it, but it doesn’t work.
Research is often done by students, who have school-imposed constraints on their
Refreshing to hear people say they were wrong
Lockton et al: “Outside academia, design teams do not always find it easy to apply
abstract taxonomies, or have time for incorporating this stage into a design process,
so a quick method for translating theorists’ valuable work into practical design
suggestions for tackling particular briefs would be useful.”
BJ Fogg – 15 years experience
“Stopping smoking is the Mount Everest of human behavior change”
1) Choose a simple behavior to target
Reduce stress – stretch for 20s when prompted
Be environmentally friendly – change 1 light bulb
This step is hard, but really important
2) Choose a receptive audience - Not the toughest one, not everyone
3) What’s preventing is usually some lack of motivation, ability, and/or trigger to
perform the behavior. (If both motivation and ability are lacking, the problem might
be too hard)
4) Technology channel. Triggers are relatively easy to do by text message, eg.
Channel needs to be familiar to audience – adopting a new channel along with
behavior dooms you. Ex, AARP needed to educate people about texting before they
could try using it as a trigger to go walking.
Example – “go eat a vegetable” video.
Revisit 3… if motivation is lacking, video or social networking might work. If ability is
lacking, maybe an app to help you.
The process for the first 4 steps will vary. Parts may be dictated by your
5) You won’t find something that fits your situation. Get 9 examples – 3 for audience,
3 for the behavior, and 3 for the channel. Success data may not be available. Next 2
papers help with this step.
6) Don’t try to be unique yet. That comes later. “When learning new skills, people
succeed fastest by imitating success.” But do think about why the example is
successful from a psychological perspective.
7) By quickly, he means hours, no more than 10-15. Designing for persuasion is harder
than usability. Success seems to correlate more with # of trials (he suggests 10) than
“Many crummy trials beats deep thinking.” - Fogg
8) Scale up can mean making the target behavior more difficult, reach out to other
If you’re doing a controlled experiment, step 8 is where you begin to set it up.
The last 2 papers are ways to help designers brainstorm.
Playing with a puppy vs. adopting a puppy
Premise – each cell has a unique set of psychological theories, persuasion strategies,
and techniques. For instance, operant conditioning is relevant for doing a behavior on
Persuasion strategies like the classic salesman’s “foot in the door” might apply to a
There are lots of strategies – 60+. Example of a design technique is Amazon’s free
shipping for orders >$25.
Different ways you could use this matrix. Two discussed in the paper…
1) Take an existing application and see what they’re doing. Look for patterns.
Facebook’s strategies focus on one-time or increasing behavior
2) Take a particular technology and figure out what it’s good for.
What is mobile persuasion good for? It’s great for giving cues via texting to do
something, not so much for stopping a behavior.
You could also use this matrix for brainstorming
Lockton et al: “We’ve called it Design with Intent, because the central principle is that
the designer has an intended outcome in mind for the user’s behaviour. It’s design
intended to influence, or result in, certain behaviour.
And it recurs across lots of disciplines, from architecture to software to medical
Persuasive Technology is a major part of this, but there are also techniques which
influence user behaviour without necessarily changing user’s attitudes – I feel it’s
important to recognise this.”
Next few slides came from Dan’s PowerPoint
One way of thinking about this is a simple comparison of three approaches to
influencing behaviour: motivating, enabling and constraining.
Much of what we talk about in Persuasive Technology is about motivating behaviour,
with attitude change a precursor.
But some recognised techniques – such as reduction and tunnelling as identified by BJ
– are arguably about enabling particular behaviour, by making it simpler, or easier
than the alternatives, or even making it possible in the first place.
If I have to go through a multi-stage process to shut down my computer when I go to
lunch, I’m much less likely to do it than if there’s a single button, prominent in front
of me, that does it in one go.
The other end of the scale from enabling is constraining – represented by this
intestine! - and this is where some of the ethical debate around behaviour change
techniques centres. If you remove the options available to users, or make some
intentionally more difficult or uncomfortable, you probably end up with behaviour
change, but at the expense of liberty. Some people say this is a bad thing, but there
are arguments that it can be good.
And there are times when constraints make sense, for instance to prevent errors.
Here’s the essence of the Design with Intent model.
Each of these colored circles represents a different perspective on design, a lens if
The idea is that if you look at each lens one at a time, it can help you think outside
the immediate frame of reference of however the problem was defined. For instance,
a client may come to you thinking they want a particular solution, but you don’t
necessarily want to be constrained by their ideas.
They’ve actually made this into a poster, which you can download from the
designwithintent site. They are still evolving it.
Let’s zoom in on this upper right corner.
The Persuasive Lens tries to capture many of the design patterns in Persuasive
Technology – ideas like self-monitoring, kairos, simulation and so on – where the
approach is usually motivating or enabling behaviours.
The concept of kairos is one that comes up in PT a lot. It means doing the right thing
at the right time. For instance, if you’re trying to eat more fruit, maybe what you
need is a reminder not at lunchtime but before you leave home to bring an apple.
Another example you’ve probably heard is what we call a “teachable moment,” which
is not just the lesson but the right lesson at the right time. That’s kairos.
Paper describes a small-scale study where they had 3 designers use this approach to