Influencing the Others’ Minds: an Experimental Evaluation of the Use and Efficacy of Fallacious-reducible Arguments in Web and Mobile Technologies

PsychNology Journa 12 (3):87-105 (2014)
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The research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) has nowadays extended its attention to the study of persuasive technologies. Following this line of research, in this paper we focus on websites and mobile applications in the e-commerce domain. In particular, we take them as an evident example of persuasive technologies. Starting from the hypothesis that there is a strong connection between logical fallacies, i.e., forms of reasoning which are logically invalid but psychologically persuasive, and some common persuasion strategies adopted within these technological artifacts, we carried out a survey on a sample of 175 websites and 101 mobile applications. This survey was aimed at empirically evaluating the significance of this connection by detecting the use of persuasion techniques, based on logical fallacies, in existing websites and mobile apps. In addition, with the goal of assessing the effectiveness of different fallacy-based persuasion techniques, we performed an empirical evaluation where participants interacted with a persuasive (fallacy-based) and with a non-persuasive version of an e-commerce website. Our results show that fallacy-based persuasion strategies are extensively used in existing digital artifacts, and that they are actually effective in influencing users’ behavior, with strategies based on visual salience manipulation (accent fallacy) being both the most popular and the most effective ones.
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