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Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

Introduction Persuasion in the Digital Age

Overview

I define persuasive technology as any interactive computing system designed to change people s attitudes or behaviors.

Computers weren t initially created to persuade; they were built for handling data calculating, storing, and retrieving. But as computers have migrated from research labs onto desktops and into everyday life, they have become more persuasive by design. Today computers are taking on a variety of roles as persuaders, including roles of influence that traditionally were filled by teachers, coaches, clergy, therapists, doctors, and salespeople, among others. We have entered an era of persuasive technology, of interactive computing systems designed to change people s attitudes and behaviors.

The earliest signs of persuasive technology appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, when a few computing systems were designed to promote health and increase workplace productivity. One of the earliest examples is a computer system named Body Awareness Resource Network (BARN), developed in the late 1970s. This pioneering program was designed to teach adolescents about health issues such as smoking, drugs, exercise, and more, with an ultimate focus on enhancing teens behaviors in these areas. [1 ]Gradually other interactive programs of this nature followed, most designed to address adolescent health issues or to treat psychological disorders. [2 ]But it wasn t until the late 1990s specifically, the emergence of the Internet that more than a handful of people began creating persuasive technology.

[1 ]K. Bosworth, D. H. Gustafson, R. P. Hawkins, B. Chewning, and P. M. Day, BARNY: A computer based health information system for adolescents, Journal of...

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