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Persuasive Technology: Making a Difference Together

  • University of Waterloo 200 University Avenue West Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1 Canada (map)

Welcome to the 'Persuasive Technology: Making a Difference Together' (#MDT2018) Workshop


This workshop will discuss the research efforts that are being made aimed at changing human behavior and attitude. It will engage the persuasive technology community to jointly look at where do we stand and where do we want to go with the field. In 2018, it will be fifteen years since the seminal book on persuasive technology was published. Since then, already twelve annual conferences have been held on the topic. The Persuasive Technology community has attracted many young scholars and has kept very strong core of leading scientists in the area of research. At the same time, not all expectations have been met over the last decade. Therefore, the community needs to come together and discuss ways for natural expansion and strategic growth. We need acknowledge weaknesses in the area of behavior change interventions and seek for ways to overcome them.

This workshop will help facilitating discourses around human behavior, behavior change, early interventions for behavior change, persuasive technology, persuasive systems design, design with intent, personalized persuasion, behavior change support systems, health behavior change, socially influencing systems, user experience design for behavior change, computer-supported influence, and more. The workshop will discuss open questions, promote a healthy debate amongst academics, create strategic directions, and unify everyone around what’s essential for advancing the community in a fundamentally fresh and novel way.


To register your participation, please fill out this simple form:

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Look forward to see you all on April 17, 2018, in Waterloo, ON, Canada:


People have unique beliefs and values that shape up their personalities over time. However, not many act in accordance with their beliefs and values. It is not surprising to find a contradiction between peoples’ beliefs and actual actions. Such inconsistencies gave birth to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance [1]. Indeed, it was this particular gap in peoples’ beliefs and actual actions that was recognized by academics, psychologists and researchers leading to the manifest role of Persuasive Technology to shape up human behavior.


While several scholars studied human behavior and early interventions were designed to guide users through behavior change process [2,3], Brendryen and Kraft proposed that technology-based interventions had the potential to change people’s behaviors [4]. In 2003, Fogg introduced a new research area known as Persuasive Technology [5]. His work originates from Human Psychology and hence it is essential to understand the interplay between Psychology and Technology when interventions are developed to shape up human behavior. The research field of Persuasive Technology highlights the potential of technology as a tool for persuasion where the earlier acts both as a medium and a social actor [5]. Following Fogg’s work, researchers from around the globe started developing and analyzing persuasive technologies for a wide range of areas including but not limited to promotion of physical activity [6], saving energy [7], living happily [8], reducing soda consumption [9], managing mental disorders [10] and persuasive cities [11].

Learning from Success!

Available research largely provides evidence of learning from success. In other words, it is relatively hard to find scientific publications in the area of Persuasive Technology that highlight failures. This compels us to think whether we as researchers can learn from success only? Or is it so that our research settings are flawless that our research outcomes are always positive? It remains a fact that real knowledge is verified knowledge in a way that the knowledge base should be proven by intelligence or by (logical) evidence. Further, scholarly integrity in any research discipline demands that researchers should abstain from any unverified remarks [12]. In other words, we must disown biased and speculative results. We propose that the same should be practiced in the research field of Persuasive Technology. Persuasive Technology has received a great deal of attention from researchers who have developed stand-alone applications to promote desirable behaviors. However, a quick look at the previous proceedings indicates that researchers are still focused on application-driven studies with little attention to theoretical grounds. Hence there is a lack of balance between studying technologies and theories to support the work.


Another area that calls for discussion is an evident lack of publications that has highlight failures. This is in line with a review of empirical studies by [13] who investigated a variety of persuasive information systems and reported that reviewed studies primarily reported fully positive and partially positive effects [13]. We argue that partial reason for absence of publications that report failures is because of publication bias that pertains to acceptance of only those manuscripts that have statistically significant level of results while all other submissions are more or less rejected. Similar reservations have also been put forward by [14].

This, in a way, is publication suppression that obstructs what could otherwise prove to be quality papers from being accepted. When it comes to Persuasive Technology this would result in serious inaccuracy rates in available literature. There is substantial evidence that convinces the existence of publication bias. Banks and colleagues propose that the degree of publication bias has grown to such an extent that available research results are unreliable of all research. Further, they highlight that publication bias is one of the greatest threats to the legitimacy of meta-analytic articles, which in turn are among the most significant instruments for advancing scientific research [14]. There could be several reasons for publication bias. One being authors’ decision. In simple terms, authors have more control of their data. A classic example would be a situation where authors would not submit their work because of small sample size, statistically insignificant results or because of findings that contradict previous research.

Heading Where?

The issue of publication bias applies to almost all the research disciplines and the research area of Persuasive Technology is no exception. Here, we would highlight another issue that is similar to publication bias. This critical issue is what we generally call as conflict of interest. If we go through the proceedings of all the conferences on Persuasive Technology, it becomes crystal clear that prominent names seem to appear both in the scientific committees as well as in the list of authors of accepted publications. This is a clear case of conflict of interest, one would argue. While there is no substitute for experience and we can never underestimate the contribution of senior researchers, yet it seems relatively clear that the research area of Persuasive Technology is in what might call as “rigid control” of a few. As an example, consider the International Conference on Persuasive Technology. One would notice that a high majority of Steering Committee remain the same and secondly, most of them have at least one paper published in the proceedings.


The proposed workshop aims to bring researchers together to a forum that facilitates constructive discussion and debate. The research area of Persuasive Technology is receiving increasing interest from across the globe and deservingly so. Yet it is observed that the audience at Persuasive Technology conferences revolves mainly around the same crowd with a few exceptions. It is anticipated that the workshop will provide an opportunity for researchers from different disciplines to address the issue and come up with constructive recommendations leading to a change for the advancement of Persuasive Technology Community.

We welcome topics included but not limited to:

  • Theory-driven persuasive design
  • Publishing failures
  • Multidisciplinary contributions
  • Publication bias
  • Attracting larger audience
  • Strategic steering


  1. Festinger, L. A (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  2. Revere, D., & Dunbar, P. J. (2001). Review of Computer-generated Outpatient Health Behavior Interventions Clinical Encounters “in Absentia”. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 8(1), 62-79.
  3. Reiter, E., Robertson, R., & Osman, L. M. (2003). Lessons from a failure: Generating tailored smoking cessation letters. Artificial Intelligence, 144(1), 41-58.
  4. Brendryen, H., & Kraft, P. (2008). Happy Ending: A randomized controlled trial of a digital multi‐media smoking cessation intervention. Addiction, 103(3), 478-484.
  5. Fogg, B. J. (2003). Computers as persuasive social actors.
  6. Toscos, T., Faber, A., An, S., & Gandhi, M. P. (2006, April). Chick clique: persuasive technology to motivate teenage girls to exercise. In CHI'06 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1873-1878). ACM.
  7. Midden, C., & Ham, J. (2009, April). Using negative and positive social feedback from a robotic agent to save energy. In Proceedings of the 4th international conference on persuasive technology (p. 12). ACM.
  8. Chatterjee, S., & Price, A. (2009). Healthy living with persuasive technologies: framework, issues, and challenges. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16(2), 171-178.
  9. Langrial, S., & Oinas-Kukkonen, H. (2012). Less fizzy drinks: a multi-method study of persuasive reminders. In Persuasive Technology. Design for Health and Safety (pp. 256-261). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  10. Langrial, S., Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Lappalainen, P., & Lappalainen, R. (2014, May). Managing depression through a behavior change support system without face-to-face therapy. In International Conference on Persuasive Technology (pp. 155-166). Springer, Cham.
  11. Stibe, A., & Larson, K. (2016). Persuasive cities for sustainable wellbeing: quantified communities. In International Conference on Mobile Web and Information Systems (pp. 271-282). Springer International Publishing.
  12. Lakatos, I. (1976). Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes (pp. 205-259). Springer Netherlands.
  13. Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & Pakkanen, T. (2014). Do Persuasive Technologies Persuade?-A Review of Empirical Studies. In Persuasive Technology (pp. 118-136).
  14. Banks, G. C., Kepes, S., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012). Publication Bias: A call for improved meta‐analytic practice in the organizational sciences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20(2), 182-196.
  15. Available at: Accessed on April 15, 2015.