MIT Technology Review special report on persuasive technology

The MIT Technology Review has just published a special business report on persuasive technology, i.e. how technologies from smartphones to social media are used to influence our tastes, behavior, and even habits. Free registration is required to read all the articles.

Technology and Persuasion
Persuasive technologies surround us, and they’re growing smarter. How do these technologies work? And why?
By Nanette Byrnes
The idea that computers, mobile phones, websites, and other technologies could be designed to influence people’s behavior and even attitudes dates back to the early 1990s, when Stanford researcher B. J. Fogg coined the term “persuasive computing” (later broadened to “persuasive technology”). But today many companies have taken that one step further: using technologies that measure customer behavior to design products that are not just persuasive but specifically aimed at forging new habits.

Persuasive Texting in Mozambique
Inspired by trials that used text messages to change behaviors, a U.K. charity tested whether it could persuade HIV-positive people to attend their appointments.
By Kristin Majcher
In November 2011, the U.K.-based children’s organization ARK began a two-year test of sending text messages to HIV-positive people in urban and rural areas of Mozambique’s Maputo Province to remind them about treatments and appointments.

New Technologies Persuade in Old Ways
Robert Cialdini, an expert in the science of persuasion, talks about its most modern methods.
By George Anders
Cialdini argues that practically every form of persuasion can be traced back to one of six timeless principles: reciprocity, likeability, authority, scarcity, consistency, and social proof. It’s human nature to reach for those levers, and to be influenced by them, he contends.

Pretrial Technology
Lawyers are testing arguments and evidence online.
By Nanette Byrnes
The trial consulting firm DecisionQuest has built its own Web tool with 3.5 million mock jurors. A legal team can use it, for example, to test the impact of different arguments.

Compulsive Behavior Sells
Nir Eyal is showing software designers how to hook users in four easy steps. Welcome to the new era of habit-forming technology.
By Ted Greenwald
For a long time, the methodology for designing habit-forming products was haphazard: build it, put it before the public, and watch it go viral or fade into oblivion. In recent years, though, product teams have become more deliberate. Principles derived from behavioral science play an increasing role in software design, creating a demand for experts who can guide developers in the art—and science—of behavior engineering.

Fake Persuaders
Fake accounts can inflate follower counts, suppress political messages, and run stealthy social marketing.
By Tom Simonite
Fake accounts operated by low-paid humans or automated software have become good business, too. They are used to inflate follower counts, to push spam or malware, and even to skew political discourse. The tactic appears to be pervasive and growing in sophistication.

New Technologies, New Marketing
The Internet and social media have profoundly changed how brands are built, customers wooed, and products marketed.
By Pat Wechsler
Where marketing was once a one-way street of information flowing from the brand to the consumer, it has become a conversation—and as in a conversation, brands now have to actually listen and respond to what the public says.

Voters, Algorithms, and Persuasion
An expert on elections explains that while campaigns have plenty of data on voters, using it to find the voters open to persuasion remains a tough task.
By Kristin Majcher
Data analysis is valuable for mobilizing likely voters with reminders to go to the polls. But it is harder to use the data that campaigns gather to accurately target persuasive messages to people who are undecided or might change their minds, says Eitan Hersh, an assistant professor of political science at Yale and author of the upcoming book Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters. In a conversation with MIT Technology Review special projects editor Kristin Majcher, he explains the challenges of accurately predicting which voters will be persuadable—something that can be important in close elections.

Health Persuasion Gets Better
To motivate healthy behavior, device companies and employers embrace social tools and insights from behavioral science.
By George Anders
A 2013 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that barely 20 percent of adult Americans get the recommended amount of exercise each week, which can be as little as three or four hours. If we’re to overcome this inertia, exercise needs to become more psychologically inviting.

Advertisers Seeks Answers from Neuroscience
Neuromarketing promises to measure what people feel when they see ads, but the science is unsettled.
By Antonio Regalado
While consumer neuroscience provides some interesting clues to designing ads, it’s still unclear whether these tools can predict an ad’s ultimate success.

“Everything Is a Recommendation”
The next generation of online recommendation engines is less obvious, but more pervasive.
By Tim Mullaney
New technologies and much bigger arrays of available data are taking recommendation engines to a new place, making them less obvious to the user but more important to website operations.

A Closer Look at Persuasive Technology
Industry guide: resources and upcoming events.
By Kristin Majcher
Bibliography and calendar.

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