A tailoring technology is a
computing product that provides information relevant to individuals to change their attitudes or behaviors or both.
Tailoring technologies make life simpler for computer users who don’t want to wade through
Psychology research has shown that tailored information is more effective than generic information in changing attitudes and behaviors. [11 ] Much of the research has taken place in the area of health interventions, in which information has been tailored to match people’s education level, type and stage of disease, attitude toward the disease, and other factors.
Tailoring technology can be embedded in a variety of persuasive technology products. One example: A word processing application might suggest that you increase your working vocabulary by learning a word each day (the program has noticed that you use a relatively small set of words). You might be more motivated to follow up on this suggestion if the application provided tailored information showing the limited range of your working vocabulary, as well as a comparison chart that shows that you are well below the vocabulary level of others in your profession.
The Web offers some good examples of tailoring information to individuals to achieve a persuasive result. Consider Chemical Scorecard (Figure 3.3) found at scorecard.org. Created by Environmental Defense (formerly known as the Environmental Defense Fund), this site encourages users to take action against polluting organizations and makes it easy to contact policy
Figure 3.3: The Web site scorecard.org provides tailored information in order to persuade
When users enter their zip code, the site lists
This tailored information can be compelling. The report I generated for my area of Silicon Valley identified hazards I didn’t know about, and it identified the companies that were the major offenders. To my surprise, the polluters included a few companies with
I also learned from Chemical Scorecard that exercising in the neighborhood of my YMCA may not be a good idea. A company located
Many sites provide tailored information for commercial purposes. More and more e-commerce Web sites are suggesting additional items for consumers to buy, based on information gathered in previous
Information provided by computing technology will be more persuasive if it is tailored to the individual’s needs, interests, personality, usage context, or other factors relevant to the individual.
It’s not surprising that tailored information is more effective. But what may be surprising is that the mere
that information has been tailored is likely to make a difference, according to some scholars.
In other words, information doesn’t have to
Why does this work? When people believe messages are tailored for them, they pay more attention. [14 ] They will then process the information more deeply, and—if the information stands up to scrutiny—they will be more likely to be persuaded. [15 ]
Unfortunately, the fact that people are more likely to be persuaded if they simply perceive that information has been tailored for them enables designers to apply tailoring techniques in unethical ways. Suppose an interactive financial planning product gathers information about the
Chemical Scorecard tailors information to individuals, but it does not tailor information for context. That’s the next big step for this and other tailoring technologies. In the case of Chemical Scorecard, tailoring information for context would mean taking the information from the system’s databases and providing it to people during the normal routines of life.
Imagine a young couple shopping for a home. A tailoring technology in their car could inform them about the environmental status of the neighborhoods they are considering. Or a portable tailoring technology could
Conceptually, it’s easy to make the leap from personalized information to contextualized information. But from a technology and practical standpoint, there’s a long way to go to make this a reality. To deliver contextualized information, the technology would have to not only locate you but also determine, among other things, whether you are alone or with others, what task you were performing, whether you are in a rush or at leisure, and what kind of mood you are in. All of these are important elements in determining an effective persuasion strategy. Then there are practical and social issues such as who will pay for the required technology and how privacy will be
[11 ] For a review of tailoring in the context of computer technology, see H. B. Jimison. Patient specific interfaces to health and decision-making information, in R. L. Street, W. R. Gold, and T. Manning (eds.), Health Promotion and Interaction Technology: Theoretical Applications and Future Directions (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum, 1997). See also:
a. V. J. Strecher et al., The effects of computer-tailored smoking cessation message in family practice settings, J. Fam Prac, 39: (1994).
b. C. S. Skinner, J. F. Strecher, and H. Hospers, Physician recommendations for mammogram; do tailored messages make a difference? AM J Public Health, 84: 43–49 (1994).
c. M. K. Campbell et al., The impact of message tailoring on dietary behavior change for disease prevention in primary care settings, Am J Public Health, 84: 783–787 (1993).
d. M. W. Kreuter and V. J. Strecher, Do tailored behavior change messages enhance the effectiveness of health risk appraisal? Results from a randomized trial, Health Educ. Res., 11(1): 97–105 (1996).
e. James O. Prochaska and John C. Norcross, Changing for Good (Avon Books, 1995).
[12 ] See http://www.scorecard.org.
[13 ] For example, see J. R. Beninger, Personalization of mass media and the growth of pseudocommunity, Communication Research, 14(3): 352–371 (1987).
[14 ] S. J. Ball-Rokeach, M. Rokeach, and J. Grube, The Great American Values Test: Influencing Behavior and Belief through Television (New York: Free Press, 1984). See also J. R. Beninger, Personalization of mass media and the growth of pseudo-community, Communication Research, 14(3): 352–371 (1987).
[15 ] R. E. Petty and J. T. Cacioppo, Attitude and Persuasion: Classical and Contemporary Approaches (Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, 1981).