Persuasion is “an attempt to change attitudes and or behaviors using the information systems”(Fogg, 2002). Attitudes are derived from the expectations and experiences of an object, person or a concept. Behaviors are the outcome of actions performed by individuals. Captology is the acronym used for computers as persuasive technologies.
The key predictors of persuasion are likability and credibility. Thus, people have more tendencies to be persuaded by someone or something when they like it and they can trust the provided information. Persuasion should not be confused with deception and coercion. The outcome action in behavior should be voluntary; otherwise it forces the user to change the behavior, that would be coercion. Moreover, correct information should be provided to the audience, otherwise it would be deception.
According to Fogg (2002), best times for persuasion are: (1) When people are in a good mood. (2) When people think that their current way of thinking is not useful. (3) When people think they made a mistake about something. (4) When people recently received a favor from someone or something. (5) When people recently denied a request from someone or something.
According to Fogg (2002), there are three types of roles that information systems can play from humans’ perspective: tools, media and social actors.
Tools: Information systems are tools that help humans to achieve things more efficiently and effectively.
Media: Information systems are sources for conveying information.
Social Actor: Information systems are being treated as living beings by most of the users.
Information Systems as Persuasive Tools
According to Fogg (2002), computers can be used as persuasive tools in seven different ways:
Reduction technology: Persuasion through simplification (e.g. single click buying on Amazon.com).
Tunneling technology: Persuasion through guidance (e.g. software installation windows).
Tailoring technology: Persuasion through customization (e.g. displaying job announcements based on user’ occupation titles).
Suggestion technology: Persuasion through providing suggestions in the most opportune moment (e.g. speed limit information on a vehicle system is before passing a school zone).
Self-Monitoring Technology: Persuasion through tracking and informing (e.g. wearable heart rate monitors).
Surveillance technology: Persuasion through observation (e.g. cameras in shops).
Conditioning Technology: Persuasion through positive and negative reinforcements (e.g. video games use many positive and negative reinforcements).
Computers as Persuasive Media
Information systems can provide different kinds of experiences that help humans to perceive cause-and-effect relationships through simulations. Simulations are used to create experiences via mimicking some dynamic hypothetical environment. Studies show that people respond to a simulated environment as if it is real (Gredler, 1986 as cited in (Fogg, 2002)). Simulations also allow people to rehearse and practice a target behavior which can be useful for increasing motivation and self-efficacy.
Simulation can also be used to create empathy between two groups by allowing them to experience situations from others’ perspective (Slechter, 1992 as cited in (Fogg, 2002)). For example InMySteps application was developed as a tool to increase doctors’ empathy toward cancer patients. It is a 20-minute-simulation that provides doctors to experience the world from the perspective of a fatigued cancer patient. The environment is a patient’s home and the doctors were expected to accomplish some routine daily tasks such as answering the door. However, the doctors were moving slowly in the simulated environment as if they were cancer patients, no matter how fast they were pressing the pedals.
A study was conducted to test the effect of the simulation on doctors (Fogg, 2002)). The results show that doctors who did the simulation understood better about the patients’ frustrations that 60% reported that they would treat cancer patients better during therapies.
Computers as Social Actor
People treat computers most of the time as if they are living beings. According to Reeves and Nass (1996), Computers produce social cues, and humans are instinctively responding to these cues. Computers can be used to create social influence (e.g. peer pressure and social comparison) which is a powerful persuasion technique.
There are five different primary types of social cues that are triggered from the computers.
Physical cues: Face, eye and bodily movements, physical attractiveness.
Psychological cues: Cues related with personality (e.g. constantly crashing computer considered as having uncooperative personality).
Language cues: The style of the messages (e.g. formal, informal, praising).
Social dynamics: Using unwritten social rules when interacting with humans (e.g. greeting people when people opened the system).
Role Model: the roles that computers can take (e.g. training coach, teacher, opponent, entertainer, close friend).
According to this, information systems can be used as tools, media and social actors to persuade the user to achieve a desired goal.
Fogg, B. J. (2002). Persuasive technology: using computers to change what we think and do. Ubiquity, 2002(December), 2.