Persuasive Backfiring: When Behavior Change Interventions Trigger Unintended Negative Outcomes

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9638)


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 


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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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