All posts filed under “Techniques of persuasion

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Persuasive 2009

UPDATED (7 April): Here’s an ‘author version preprint’ of the paper, Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method [PDF, 1.6MB]. At some point soon this version of the paper will downloadable from Brunel’s research archive, while the ‘proper’ version will be available in the ACM Digital Library. ACM requires me to state the following alongside the link to the preprint:

© ACM, 2009. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library. ISBN 978-1-60558-376-1.


Claremont Graduate University - photo by Katherine H on Flickr

I’m pleased to announce that a paper I submitted to Persuasive 2009, at the Claremont Colleges, California (26-29th April) has been accepted, so I’ll be presenting ‘Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method’ on Monday 27th April.

The paper builds on the ideas I presented at Persuasive 2008 (the paper), detailing the development of the ‘Design with Intent Method‘, a ‘suggestion tool’ for designers faced with briefs involving influencing user behaviour, and the results of a series of pilot studies to test the usability of the method.

At the time of submitting the paper (New Year’s Eve, 6pm!), the pilot studies were still going on (poor planning by me), so (as the reviewers noted!) the paper’s conclusions are fairly weak, and there are quite a few revisions I need to make before submitting the final version: the next couple of weeks are going to require some fairly intense work in that vein. But it’s great to have been accepted: Persuasive 2008 was fantastic, incredibly useful in terms of meeting people and getting feedback on the proposed research, and I’m hoping 2009 will be just as good. The big-name speakers include BJ Fogg, originator of the Persuasive Technology field, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (of ‘Flow‘ fame), and Brenda Laurel (author of Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, which I’ll admit I haven’t yet got round to reading, largely because of Nigel Cross’s review, but maybe I should find the time!). As always, though, it’s the chance to talk to and get to know other people working on similar problems, or offering a different point of view on the field, which is especially interesting.

The proceedings are going to be published by the ACM (last year’s were published by Springer), but I don’t have any more details at this stage. I’ll post a preprint version of the paper here once it’s ready, of course.

Many thanks to my co-authors: my supervisors Professor David Harrison (Brunel) and Professor Neville Stanton (Southampton) for their help, and Tim Holley whose insights into improving and using the method were extremely useful. Thanks too to all the other pilot study participants, and also to the Royal Academy of Engineering, who very kindly awarded an international travel grant to help me attend the conference. I am aware of the hypocrisy of flying halfway round the world to talk (in part) about influencing more environmentally friendly behaviour, and the cognitive dissonance is headache-inducing. Why there aren’t more live, online academic conferences, I don’t know.

Here are the abstract and ACM meta-stuff for the paper:

Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method
Dan Lockton¹, David Harrison¹, Tim Holley², Neville A. Stanton³
¹Cleaner Electronics Research Group, Brunel Design, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
²Product Design Programme, Brunel Design, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
³School of Civil Engineering & the Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom

Persuasive Technology has the potential to influence user behavior for social benefit, e.g. to reduce environmental impact, but designers are lacking guidance choosing among design techniques for influencing interaction. The Design with Intent Method, a ‘suggestion tool’ addressing this problem, is described in this paper, and applied to the briefs of reducing unnecessary household lighting use, and improving the efficiency of printing, primarily to evaluate the method’s usability. The trial demonstrates that the DwI Method is quick to apply and leads to a range of relevant design concepts. With development, the DwI Method could be a useful tool for designers working on influencing user behavior.

Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.1.2 [Models and Principles]: User/Machine Systems — human factors, software psychology. H.5.2 [Information Interfaces and Presentation (e.g. HCI)]: User Interfaces — theory and methods, user-centered design.
General Terms
Design, Human Factors.
Persuasive technology, behavior change, sustainability, energy, interaction design, design methods, innovation methods.

On other matters, I’m proud to say that Planetizen, the urban design and planning community and blog has named Design with Intent one of its Top 10 Websites for 2009 – a nice accolade given how broad the scope here is beyond urbanism and architecture! Some of the other websites recommended are well worth a deeper read – On the Commons, Digital Urban, Infranet Lab and Gapminder stood out for me.

Adding that Planetizen accolade to Six Revisions’ inclusion of the blog in its ’20 websites to help you master user interface design’, it’s clear that, if nothing else, the themes we cover here really do meander about over conventional disciplinary boundaries. It’s all about people interacting with designed systems, whether they’re concrete plazas, electric kettles or confirmation dialogues, and I’d like to think the similarities are worth investigating.

Photo of Claremont Graduate University by Katherine H on Flickr

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London Design Festival: Greengaged

Greengaged skip

Design CouncilThe London Design Festival always throws up some interesting events, especially involving clever people trying new things in design and sharing their experiences and expertise.

This year, the Design Council are running Greengaged, a “sustainability hub… developed and organised by [re]design, thomas.matthews and Kingston University with Arup and Three Trees Don’t Make A Forest”. It’s a series of talks and workshops about ecodesign and sustainable issues in design.

On Tuesday I went, along with Alex Plant, for the ‘Behaviour Change’ talks, part of the ‘Gauging the Green’ day, where Unchained‘s Lea Simpson, More AssociatesLuke Nicholson, IDEO London‘s Andrea Koerselman and Fiona Bennie from Forum for the Future all talked about their work on using design to change behaviour.

[Apologies: YouTube have since removed the clip due to an infringement claim from Candid Camera, Inc. So here’s an alternative link – it may not last either, though, but if you search for “candid camera” elevator I’m sure you’ll be able to find it]

Lea Simpson started with this great Candid Camera clip from 196x demonstrating how easily social proof can be used to influence behaviour. Lea argued three important points relevant to behaviour change (many thanks to Christian McLening for taking better notes than I did):

1. Behaviour change requires behaviour (i.e. the behaviour of others: social effects are critical, as we respond to others’ behaviour which in turn affects our own; targeting the ‘right’ people allows behaviour to spread)

2. Behaviour and motivation are two different things: To change behaviour, you need to understand and work with people’s motivations – which may be very different for different people.

3. Desire is not enough: lots of people desire to behave differently, but it needs to be very easy for them to do it before it actually happens.

Luke Nicholson: Photo by Kate Andrews
Luke Nicholson’s presentation: photo by the indefatigable Kate Andrews.

Luke Nicholson talked about More‘s work on enabling the public to understand energy use and carbon footprints via home monitoring systems – as he put it, there are “some invisible forces going round your home, and this is a lens onto them”. More’s ‘energy lens’ – which can be positioned on a window, hence linking energy consumption and climate/the weather in users’ minds, and making it as easy to check “what the energy’s like today” as “what the weather’s like today” – has recently been spun out as Onzo – who look to be employing a couple of very talented Brunel Design graduates.

More Associates: Energy Literacy

Luke also talked about More’s research with energy literacy – can we create a vernacular for better public understanding of energy, carbon, current, and so on? The above slide showed the idea of ‘pips’ and ‘blocks’ as some kind of accounting unit for energy and carbon, respectively, easily comparable to pounds (sterling) for cost; there was also an interesting series of diagrams using different shapes and sizes to explain simply, visually, the difference between high-current-drawing appliances and those which draw lower currents. Changing consumer demand for new products was also addressed with the idea of a ‘Kept’ sticker which could be affixed to products such as phones, to announce “I’m keeping this”.

A lot of this really does seem to be about framing – and joining up the agendas of different groups (consumers, the electricity industry, manufacturers, governments) to provide a new resultant pointing in the desired direction. As Luke said, “We’re playing into cultures that don’t exist yet.”

Andrea Koerselman, IDEO

Andrea Koerselman and Fiona Bennie introduced their ‘i-team – local innovation on climate change’ project, a service design collaboration between IDEO and Forum for the Future, working with councils and local authorities to inspire behaviour change on issues such as driving to work, reducing electricity usage, and so on. This involves a lot of user observation – an IDEO speciality, of course – and an Inspiration-Insight-Ideation-Implementation process, as in the slide above. Talking to Fiona afterwards, she mentioned that it’s quite a novel experience for many councils to be involved in generating ideas without explicit returns-on-investment or outcomes defined, and so the ‘Ideation’ stage was going to be especially interesting.

Overall, this was a very interesting and worthwhile programme of talks – and this is just a snapshot of the many taking place this week and next in London. Tomorrow, I’m off to some of System Reload’s workshops, and on Monday, back at the Design Council, Tracy Bhamra and Emma Dewberry, among others, will be talking about sustainable design education. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

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Richard Thaler at the RSA

Richard H Thaler at the RSA

Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge (which is extremely relevant to the Design with Intent research), gave a talk at the RSA in London today, and, though only mentioned briefly, he clearly drew the links between design and behaviour change. Some notes/quotes I scribbled down:
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Designing Safe Living

New Sciences of Protection logo Lancaster University’s interdisciplinary Institute for Advanced Studies (no, not that one) has been running a research programme, New Sciences of Protection, culminating in a conference, Designing Safe Living, on 10-12 July, “investigat[ing] ‘protection’ at the intersections of security, sciences, technologies, markets and design.”

The keynote speakers include the RCA’s Fiona Raby, Yahoo!’s Benjamin Bratton and Virginia Tech’s Timothy Luke, and the conference programme [PDF, 134 kB] includes some intriguing sessions on subjects such as ‘The Art/Design/Politics of Public Engagement’, ‘Designing Safe Citizens’, ‘Images of Safety’ and even ‘Aboriginal Terraformation (performance panel)’.

I’ll be giving a presentation called ‘Design with Intent: Behaviour-Shaping through Design’ on the morning of Saturday 12 July in a session called ‘Control, Design and Resistance’. There isn’t a paper to accompany the presentation, but here’s the abstract I sent in response to being invited by Mark Lacy:

Design with Intent: Behaviour-Shaping through Design
Dan Lockton, Brunel Design, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH

“Design can be used to shape user behaviour. Examples from a range of fields – including product design, architecture, software and manufacturing engineering – show a diverse set of approaches to shaping, guiding and forcing users’ behaviour, often for intended socially beneficial reasons of ‘protection’ (protecting users from their own errors, protecting society from ‘undesirable’ behaviour, and so on). Artefacts can have politics. Commercial benefit – finding new ways to extract value from users – is also a significant motivation behind many behaviour-shaping strategies in design; social and commercial benefit are not mutually exclusive, and techniques developed in one context may be applied usefully in others, all the while treading the ethical line of persuasion-vs-coercion.

Overall, a field of ‘Design with Intent’ can be identified, synthesising approaches from different fields and mapping them to a range of intended target user behaviours. My research involves developing a ‘suggestion tool’ for designers working on social behaviour-shaping, and testing it by application to sustainable/ecodesign product use problems in particular, balancing the solutions’ effectiveness at protecting the environment, with the ability to cope with emergent behaviours.”

The programme’s rapporteur, Jessica Charlesworth, has been keeping a very interesting blog, Safe Living throughout the year.

I’m not sure what my position on the idea of ‘designing safe living’ is, really – whether that’s the right question to ask, or whether ‘we’ should be trying to protect ‘them’, whoever they are. But it strikes me that any behaviour, accidental or deliberate, however it’s classified, can be treated/defined as an ‘error’ by someone, and design can be used to respond accordingly, whether viewed through an explicit mistake-proofing lens or simply designing choice architecture to suggest the ‘right’ actions over the ‘wrong’ ones.

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The Seven Habits of Highly Affective Products

Affective product

A few people, products and experiences have impressed on me the importance of affect, of evoking an emotional response, in persuasion and behaviour change (I’ll admit I haven’t yet addressed how best to incorporate this into the DwI Method). There’s a lot of interesting work on emotional design, and emotionally durable design, which I do need to investigate further. Indeed, next week, I’ll be attending what sounds like a useful seminar at Central St Martins (no apostrophe), ‘Introducing the Affective in Sustainable Design‘, arranged by Kristina Borjesson.

But it struck me that – assuming the field can be reduced into a simple prescription – what would be useful is a manual called The Seven Habits of Highly Affective Products, leveraging the Stephen Covey-style title. When I say ‘products’, I really ought to say ‘systems’ – services, customer experiences and environments should all be considered in this.

What could those 7 (or n) habits be?

(Actually, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Products would be pretty useful, too. As would The Seven Habits of Highly Affective Peoplesomeone on Everything2 had a go…)

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Getting someone to do things in a particular order (Part 4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 (coming soon)

Continued from part 3

This series is looking at what design techniques/mechanisms are applicable to guiding a user to follow a process or path, performing actions in a specified sequence. The techniques that seem to apply with this ‘target behaviour’ fall roughly into three ‘approaches’, which if anything describe the mindset a designer might have in approaching the ‘problem’: i.e., the techniques suggested may well apply more than one at a time to many designed solutions, but each reflects a particular way of looking at the problem. In this post, I’m going to examine what I’ve called the Persuasive Interface approach, which draws heavily from the work of BJ Fogg, though applied specifically to this particularly target behaviour.

As noted before, a lot of this may seem obvious – and it is obvious: we encounter these kinds of design techniques in products and systems every day, but that’s part of the point of this bit of the research: understanding what’s out there already.

Persuasive Interface approach

The design of the interface (however loosely defined) of a product or system can be an important factor encouraging users to follow a process or path in a specified sequence. Interfaces can use a number of psychological persuasion mechanisms (outlined by B J Fogg) – a ‘human factors’ approach – in conjunction with the technical capabilities of the interface itself. Some mechanisms applicable to this behaviour, then, are – as well as the Interface capabilities themselves – Tunnelling, Suggestion (kairos), Self-monitoring and Operant conditioning.

Interface capabilities
What I mean by this – there is probably a better term for it waiting to be coined – is the choice of degree/type/format of information or feedback that an interface can provide a user. Clearly, an interface with few capabilities for actually providing the user with feedback, or worse, inappropriate feedback capabilities (e.g. a car speedometer only telling you your mean speed for the journey, rather than the instantaneous velocity), has a different (probably much worse) chance for affecting users’ behaviour. (Which is why having the electricity meter in a cupboard, and looking at it four times a year, is not very persuasive in energy-saving terms.)

Careful selection of what information, feedback and control capabilities are designed into a system, from a technical point of view, can have a major effect on user behaviour. To some extent, the addition of an interface to a system which did not previously have one may drive behaviour change in itself. Technical decisions about the types of interaction possible between an interface and the underlying system or product, and between the user and the interface – the capabilities of the interface – determine how the user experience will work: if a system is not designed with a function for monitoring progress through a sequence of operations, for example, then the possibility of indicating this via an interface is not possible, or far more difficult. Providing the infrastructure for a meaningful and useful interface for a system is a design decision which can shape or even determine the system’s use characteristics.

Self-monitoring, as defined by BJ Fogg, is an interface design mechanism which explicitly links feedback of information to the user’s actions: the user can monitor his or her behaviour and the effect that this has on the system’s state. As applied to helping a user follow a process or path in sequence, it makes sense for the self-monitoring to involve real-time feedback – so that the ‘correct’ next step can immediately be taken if the feedback indicates that this is what should happen – but in other contexts, ‘summary’ monitoring may also be useful, such as giving the user a report of his or her behaviour and its efficacy over a certain period.

Even giving a user the ability to self-monitor where previously there was none can help change behaviour: for example, providing a home electricity meter in an immediately visible position is likely to be more persuasive at inspiring energy saving – by increasing awareness of consumption – than having the meter hidden away.

LinkedIn: Self-monitoringExample: LinkedIn‘s ‘Profile Completeness’ indicator allows users to monitor their ‘progress’, driving them to follow a specified sequence of actions

Tunnelling is a ‘guided persuasion’ mechanism outlined by Fogg, in which a user ‘agrees’ to be routed through a sequence of pre-specified actions or events:

When you enter a tunnel, you give up a certain level of self-determination. By entering the tunnel, you are exposed to information and activities you may not have seen or engaged in otherwise. Both of these provide opportunities for persuasion.

Applying this mechanism involves treating the user as a captive audience: presenting only the ‘correct’ sequence of actions, step by step, with any user choices being limited, and the commitment to following the process being a motivator to accept the advice or opinions presented. Fogg uses the example of people voluntarily hiring personal trainers to guide them through fitness programmes. Some software wizards provide an interface analogy, where the intention is not merely to simplify a process, but additionally to shape the user’s choices.

Wizard: tunnellingExample: This software wizard helps the user ‘tunnel’ through a file conversion process in the right order.

Suggestion (kairos)
Suggestion (kairos) involves suggesting a behaviour to a user at the ‘opportune’ moment, i.e. when that behaviour would be the most efficient or otherwise most desirable step to take (either from the user’s point of view, or that of another entity). In the context of helping a user follow a process or path in a specified sequence, this is very easily implemented: the system can simply ‘cue’ the desired next step in the sequence by alerting or reminding the user, whether that comes through indicators on the interface itself, or some other kind of alert.

Suggestions can also help steer users away from incorrect behaviour next time they use the system, even if it’s too late this time; when presented at the point where a mistake or incorrect step is obvious, advice on what to do next time may be more easily recalled. The key to this mechanism is that the suggestion is timed or triggered at the right point in the sequence, so that its effect is most persuasive. This may imply a system which monitors the user’s behaviour and responds accordingly via the interface, or it might be realised by an interface designed so that, by helping the user keep track of where he or she is in a sequence of operations, the suggestions only appear or are visible at the right point.

Volvo gearchange light
Example: This Gearchange Indicator light, fitted to certain Volvo models, suggests the most efficient moment to change gear, based on measurement of engine RPM and throttle position. Thanks to Mac MacFarlane for the image.

Operant conditioning
Controversial, certainly, but reinforcing target behaviours through rewards or punishment may be applicable where we want the user to perform a (perhaps complex) behavioural sequence repeatedly, so that it becomes habit, or successive iterations approximate the intended sequence. But it is unlikely to be effective in encouraging users to follow one-off sequences, where actual direction (e.g. suggestion, tunnelling) is far more useful. In general, punishing users for mistakes is an undesirable way of designing.

In part 5, we’ll review the approaches we’ve looked at, and see how one might actually go about choosing among them to design a new product or system with this particular target behaviour.