This thesis explores the perceptions of the ethics of persuasive technology as applied to the design of user interfaces. The intentions are to learn whether consumers of software see persuasion through technology as ethical, whether producers of software view the development of persuasive technology as ethical, and whether these opinions can be reconciled. This research consists of a review of relevant literature on the topic, a survey of software consumers, interviews with software producers, and an analysis of the data, resulting in conclusions intended to influence the responsible design of user interfaces in the future.

The results suggest a number of findings, including that persuasive technology is effective, that software consumers do not necessarily recognize persuasion when it is applied to them, and that they do not generally wish to be persuaded, unless they view the motivation of the persuader as being morally admirable. Software producers, on the other hand, do not intentionally behave unethically, but they are open to the development of persuasive technology, and even deceptive technology under some conditions. Persuasive technology has been described and analyzed to some extent in the academic literature, but often the ethical considerations have been given only secondary importance, although in a few cases, authors have expressed strong opinions that ethics can and should be considered when designing and developing software. Recent discussions among software design professionals online have demonstrated that there are growing concerns about the use of persuasive technology, even if these concerns have not yet been extensively explored in academic study.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Persuasion (Psychology)--Computer programs--Public opinion; Computer software--Development--Moral and ethical aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Human-Computer Interaction (MS)


Catherine Beaton

Advisor/Committee Member

Michael McQuaid

Advisor/Committee Member

Elissa Weeden

CBranchSupplement.pptx (2630 kB)


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes