Living in a digitally enforced attention economy means being subjected to a constant assault of automated manipulation. Persuasive technology, as it’s now called, is a design philosophy taught and developed at some of America’s leading universities and then implemented on platforms from e-commerce sites and social networks to smartphones and fitness wristbands. The goal is to generate “behavioral change” and “habit formation,” most often without the user’s knowledge or consent.
Behavioral design theory holds that people don’t change their behaviors because of shifts in their attitudes and opinions. On the contrary, people change their attitudes to match their behaviors. In this model, we are more like machines than thinking, autonomous beings. Or at least we can be made to work that way.
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