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Persuasive technologies can be categorized by their functional roles. B. J. Fogg proposes the Functional Triad as a classification of three "basic ways that people view or respond to computing technologies": persuasive technologies can function as tools, media, or social actors - or as more than one at once.
As tools, technologies can increase people's ability to perform a target behavior by making it easier or restructuring it. For example, an installation wizard can influence task completion - including completing tasks (such as installation of additional software) not planned by users.
As media, interactive technologies can use both interactivity and narrative to create persuasive experiences that support rehearsing a behavior, empathizing, or exploring causal relationships. For example, simulations and games instantiate rules and procedures that express a point of view and can shape behavior and persuade; these use procedural rhetoric.
Technologies can also function as social actors. This "opens the door for computers to apply ... social influence". Interactive technologies can cue social responses, e.g., through their use of language, assumption of established social roles, or physical presence. For example, computers can use embodied conversational agents as part of their interface. Or a helpful or disclosive computer can cause users to mindlessly reciprocate.
Direct interaction v. mediation
Persuasive technologies can also be categorized by whether they change attitude and behaviors through direct interaction or through a mediating role: do they persuade, for example, through human-computer interaction (HCI) or computer-mediated communication (CMC)? The examples already mentioned are the former, but there are many of the latter. Communication technologies can persuade or amplify the persuasion of others by transforming the social interaction, providing shared feedback on interaction, or restructuring communication processes.
Persuasion design is the design of messages by analyzing and evaluating their content, using established psychological research theories and methods. Andrew Chak argues that the most persuasive web sites focus on making users feel comfortable about making decisions and helping them act on those decisions.
Persuasion by social motivators
Previous research has also utilized on social motivators like competition for persuasion. By connecting a user with other users, his/her coworkers, friends and families, a persuasive application can apply social motivators on the user to promote behavior changes. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter also facilitate the development of such systems. It has been demonstrated that social impact can result in greater behavior changes than the case where the user is isolated.
Halko and Kientz made an extensive search in the literature for persuasive strategies and methods used in the field of psychology to modify health-related behaviours. Their search concluded that there are 8 main types of persuasive strategies, which can be grouped into the following four categories, where each category has two complementary approaches:
1 - Instruction style
Authoritative: Persuade the technology user through an authoritative agent. For example, a strict personal trainer who instructing the user to perform the task that will meet their goal.
Non-Authoritative: Persuade the user through a neutral agent, For example, a friend who encourage the user to meet their goals.
2 - Social feedback
Cooperative: Persuade the user through the notion of cooperating and teamwork. For example, allowing the user to team up with friends to complete their goals.
Competitive: Persuade the user through the notion of competing. For example, users can play against friends or peers and be motivated to achieve their goal by winning the competition.
3 - Motivation type
Extrinsic: Persuade the user through external motivators. For example, winning trophies, as a reward for completing a task.
Intrinsic: Persuade the user through internal motivators. For example, The good feeling a user would have for being healthy, or for achieving the goal.
4 - Reinforcement type
Negative Reinforcement: Persuade the user by removing an aversive stimulus. For example, turns a brown and dying nature scene green and healthy as the user conducts more healthy behaviors.
Positive Reinforcement: Persuade the user by adding a positive stimulus. For example, adding flowers, butterflies, and other nice-looking elements to any empty nature scene, as the user conducts more healthy behaviors.
More recently, Lieto and Vernero have also shown that arguments reducible to Logical Fallacies are a class of widely adopted persuasive techniques in both web and mobile technologies.
One feature that distinguishes persuasion technology from familiar forms of persuasion is that the individual being persuaded often cannot respond in kind. This is a lack of reciprocal equality. For example, when a conversational agent persuades a user using social influence strategies, the user cannot also use similar strategies on the agent.
Health behavior change
While persuasive technologies are found in many domains, considerable recent attention has focused on behavior change in health domains. Digital health coaching is the utilization of computers as persuasive technology to augment the personal care delivered to patients, and is used in numerous medical settings.
Numerous scientific studies show that online health behaviour change interventions can influence users' behaviours. Moreover, the most effective interventions are modelled on health coaching, where users are asked to set goals, educated about the consequences of their behaviour, then encouraged to track their progress toward their goals. Sophisticated systems even adapt to users who relapse by helping them get back on the bandwagon.
Promote sustainable lifestyles
Previous work has also shown that people are receptive to change their behaviors for sustainable lifestyles. This result has encouraged researchers to develop persuasive technologies to promote for example, green travels, less waste, etc.
One common technique is to facilitate people's awareness of benefits for performing eco-friendly behaviors. For example, a review of over twenty studies exploring the effects of feedback on electricity consumption in the home showed that the feedback on the electricity consumption pattern can typically result in a 5-12% saving. Besides the environmental benefits such as CO2 savings, health benefit, cost are also often used to promote eco-friendly behaviors.
Despite the promising results of existing persuasive technologies, there are three main challenges that remain present.
Persuasive technologies developed relies on self-report or automated systems that monitor human behavior using sensors and pattern recognition algorithms. Several studies in the medical field have noted that self-report is subject to bias, recall errors and low adherence rates. The physical world and human behavior are both highly complex and ambiguous. Utilizing sensors and machine learning algorithms to monitor and predict human behavior remains a challenging problem, especially that most of the persuasive technologies require just-in-time intervention.
Difficulty in studying behavior change
In general, understanding behavioral changes require long-term studies. As multiple internal and external factors can influence these changes, such as personality type, age, income, willingness to change and more. For that, it becomes difficult to understand and measure the effect of persuasive technologies.
The question of manipulating feelings and desires through persuasive technology remains an open ethical debate. User-centered design guidelines should be developed encouraging ethically and morally responsible designs, and provide a reasonable balance between the pros and cons of persuasive technologies.
Other subjects which have some overlap or features in common with persuasive technology include:
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