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Captology is the study of computers as persuasive technologies. The word captology is still relatively unusual outside a group of researchers in the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. A persuasive computer is an interactive technology designed to change a person's attitudes or behaviors. In other words, captology pertains to the area where computing technology and persuasion overlap. This area is growing quickly as more computing products are designed to change what users think and do. We expect this trend to continue, especially as mobile phones become more capable of running third-party software applications.

If you think that sounds a bit Big Brotherish, you aren't too far off. The emphasis is, however, on influencing people for good. Some examples would be encouraging healthy living or improving road safety, but the group studying captology is fully aware that such methods could just as well be used for selfish deeds, such as persuading you to buy things, or to hand over personal data that could then be misused.

The word was coined by Professor B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Laboratories, in 1996 as a partial acronym, from the initial letters of Computers As Persuasive Technology, together with the ending -ology for a field of study. Someone engaged in the field is a captologist.

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