Persuasive Backfiring: When Behavior Change Interventions Trigger Unintended Negative Outcomes

Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-31510-2_6

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9638)
Cite this paper as:
Stibe A., Cugelman B. (2016) Persuasive Backfiring: When Behavior Change Interventions Trigger Unintended Negative Outcomes. In: Meschtscherjakov A., De Ruyter B., Fuchsberger V., Murer M., Tscheligi M. (eds) Persuasive Technology. PERSUASIVE 2016. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9638. Springer, Cham


Numerous scholars study how to design evidence-based interventions that can improve the lives of individuals, in a way that also brings social benefits. However, within the behavioral sciences in general, and the persuasive technology field specifically, scholars rarely focus-on, or report the negative outcomes of behavior change interventions, and possibly fewer report a special type of negative outcome, a backfire. This paper has been authored to start a wider discussion within the scientific community on intervention backfiring. Within this paper, we provide tools to aid academics in the study of persuasive backfiring, present a taxonomy of backfiring causes, and provide an analytical framework containing the intention-outcome and likelihood-severity matrices. To increase knowledge on how to mitigate the negative impact of intervention backfiring, we discuss research and practitioner implications.


Backfire Taxonomy Behavior change Intention-outcome matrix Likelihood-severity matrix Persuasive technology Intervention design 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIT Media LabCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Statistical Cybermetrics Research GroupUniversity of WolverhamptonWolverhamptonUK
  3. 3.AlterSparkTorontoCanada

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