Machines Designed to Change Humans

I remember how my mom used to yell at my dad because he was always trying to explain how we’re being farmed.

The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab creates insight into how computing products — from websites to mobile phone software — can be designed to change what people believe and what they do.

Yes, this can be a scary topic: machines designed to influence human beliefs and behaviors. But there’s good news. We believe that much like human persuaders, persuasive technologies can bring about positive changes in many domains, including health, business, safety, and education. We also believe that new advances in technology can help promote world peace in 30 years. With such positive ends in mind, we are creating a body of expertise in the design, theory, and analysis of persuasive technologies, an area called “captology.”

By arriving at this page, you’ve reached the main website for our research lab, directed by Dr. BJ Fogg. On this site you’ll find an overview of captology, learn about examples, have access to captology resources, and be invited to receive our lab’s free newsletter. We also share some insights in our blog, Captology Notebook.

If you want to watch persuasive technology in action, go to Captology TV. This site has dozens of short videos showing how companies use the web today to influence people’s thoughts and behaviors.

An overview of captology


Captology is the study of computers as persuasive technologies. This includes the design, research, and analysis of interactive computing products created for the purpose of changing people’s attitudes or behaviors. As the graphic shows, captology describes the area where computing technology and persuasion overlap.

This area continues to grow quickly. Each week more computing products, including websites, are designed to change what people think and do. We expect this trend to continue, especially as mobile phones become more capable of running software from third parties and the Internet.

Captology is global

Beginning at Stanford in the 1990s, the study of persuasive technology is now a global area of research and design. In the early days, we were doing research, conducting classes, and organizing events at Stanford. But we did not organize the first global conference. We appreciate our colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology for organizing this in 2006: First International Conference on Persuasive Technology for Human Well-Being. Since then, the conference has been an annual event, bringing together researchers and practitioners from around the world:
Stanford University hosted the 2007 International Conference on Persuasive Technology.

Oulu University and Aalborg University hosted the 2008 International Conference on Persuasive Technology.

Claremont College will host the 2009 International Conference on Persuasive Technology.

More on the Stamford Captlogy site

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  • Gregory

    This appears to be yet another Illuminati plot. The giveaway is the diagram that clearly is sacred geometry. I mean, I know a Vesica Piscis when I see one.

    Of course I may be talking out of my tinfoil hat.

  • Gregory

    This appears to be yet another Illuminati plot. The giveaway is the diagram that clearly is sacred geometry. I mean, I know a Vesica Piscis when I see one.

    Of course I may be talking out of my tinfoil hat.

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