Cees Midden

Using Persuasive Technology to Promote Sustainable Behavior

Sustainable living is to a large extent the outcome of how consumers use the technology surrounding them. Seen from this perspective the rather strict separation of technological and behavioral solutions is not only artificial but also detrimental to finding real sustainable solutions. The concept of persuasive technology refers to smart systems that influence users personalized and at the right moment and place making use of their interactive and adaptive capabilities. Based on a series of experimental studies I will show how how persuasive technology can intervene in user-system interactions by using intelligent agents to change human attitudes and behavior. Artificial agents like robots and avatars go beyond the function of a simple tool by adopting social behaviors that allow for exerting social influence on human behavior. This raises the question which factors cause the transformation of an object into a social actor. I will discuss how the level of perceived social agency influences the attitudinal and behavioral effects of a persuasive intervention and which psychological processes are underlying these effects. Ambient Persuasive Technology can be employed to provide feedback that needs less cognitive resources, can persuade the user without receiving the user’s conscious attention, and in general be more influential than more focal forms of persuasive technology. Various type of automatic processing in persuasive communication will be discussed. Sustainability is basically a social phenomenon. In that context, I will show that persuasive technology is not only able to influence the behavior of individuals but also of groups among others by providing various types of feedback on the group level.

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