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How Can Persuasive Technology Help People Choose for Themselves?

Keynote Talk at Persuasive 2013, April 4th, 2013

Persuasive technology is used when it is known in advance what the person in question should be persuaded to do. The job of helping people to choose for themselves what they want to do, in accordance with their own values, tastes, past experience, and capabilities, has been left to other types of interactive system, such as those for decision support or recommendation.

But there are reasons why persuasive technology researchers might consider applying their skills to the challenge of helping users choose for themselves:

  1. A lot of the innovative techniques developed in persuasive technology can be adapted to yield new ways of supporting choosing. Examples are techniques for monitoring behavior, for simulating the consequences of possible actions, for enforcing commitment strategies, for mediating social influence, and for communicating with users at opportune times and places.
  2. While users of persuasive technology are doing what they have been persuaded to do, they often need to make nontrivial personal choices about exactly how to do it; their overall success and satisfaction will be affected by how well they make these choices.

This talk argues for these claims with reference to concepts and results from the psychology of everyday decision making, and it illustrates them with examples from past and ongoing research and practice.