April 11, 2014

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The infamous Facebook "like" Credit: Veluben / Wikimedia Commons

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  • BJ Fogg of Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab

Are you reading this article on your phone? How long ago did you check your email?

Like it or not, technology is fundamentally changing our behavior. Instant notifications update us on Facebook likes and LinkedIn endorsements, and we’re trained to respond.

BJ Fogg, the head of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, studies technology - and how companies use it to expand their reach. 

Which company knows how to manipulate us most effectively, according to Fogg?

LinkedIn. They’re powerful because “they’re helping people do what they already want to do…enrich your ability to get good jobs or to recruit people or to look good in a professional way.”

But how do companies know which of our buttons to push?

One of Fogg’s former students is now a social scientist at Facebook, where he studies big data. “They run these massive experiments with millions of people and they test what works and what doesn’t.”

This means that companies need to hire new sorts of specialists.

Fogg says that tech giants are increasingly bringing on so-called "behavior designers." “Even big design firms are stepping up and saying, ‘yeah, this is what we do, we design to change peoples’ behaviors.’ They would not have said that fifteen years ago.”

Despite the Orwellian connotations, Fogg sees an upside to the growth of persuasive technology.

The power of these tools does not reside with a small group of companies. It’s accessible to everybody. “When you put these tools in the hands of people more broadly, you know, their ability to do good things and influence people in good ways overall go up.”

So go ahead, make a few more connections on LinkedIn.

Facebook, Sci & Tech, LinkedIn, Business, BJ Fogg, Culture

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