Which psychology theories are used to persuade users?

Hi guys,

as always it is a pleasure to be here in this forum!

Am I assuming right that to “persuade” users you have to know the basics of cognitive psychology?

Do you have any other psychology areas which are as well related?

I am writing my master thesis about this very important topic.

Best regards!


I would add:

  • Gestalt psychology, as a general design framework to organize things visually in such a way that it’s easily understood by users. It’s not a real persuasion, but anyway it pushes to see things in a certain desired way.
  • Social psychology, a an attempt to exploit social relations and self-identity and perception mechanism in social contexts (like social media).

I’d be looking into Behaviorism, BF Skinner, etc.

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I second the mention of social psychology and would recommend the work of Dr Betsy Levy Paluck who teaches at Princeton and is a MacArthur award winner. Her work on social norms offers important lessons that I believe need to be factored in to any analysis of the role of social media.

I’d also mention the field of digital sociology - not psychology, to be sure, but a sister discipline.


UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) calls thus “predictive technology”which has formed a institute to study this field.

@Zerono this may be right up your ally after rereading your post here! Good luck!

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Thank you all of you for your comments! I will do my research about it and tell you my progress if you someone wish for it!


@zerono Please do post about your project- this is a free thinking forum so feel free to “think out loud” and post about your process or whatever.

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Check B.J. Foog. He is the Skinner of XXI century.

Nir Eyal a student of Foog and his book “Hooked How to Build Habit-Forming Product” is also very good source of information.

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@Zerono. I just noticed this new member @Gaby mention persuasive research in the introductions… Perhaps a connection here could help?

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@healthyswimmer thank you for the connection! I will talk with him!

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I recommend you to read some books like Persuasion by Robert Cialdini or Driven by Dan H. Pink.

You can also read Dan Ariely’s books, he’s a great behavioral economist. And if you haven’t got enough, Dan Heath and Chip Heath have great, great books (my favorite is switch).

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I just see that I can not send private messages to people. Because of this I am writing to @Gaby in the matter whether you can tell us how your progress of your research paper currently is? Would you like to share it with us?

@Zerono you should be able to private message people. Just click on the person’s name anywhere it is seen in text or whatever and this takes you to their profile. Then you can click on message.

Either way is ok but we encourage people to post public when you can or when appropriate so people can appreciate the evolution of thoughts in humane tech. It’s kind of like talking at the lunch tables at work or conversing at a professional mixer- people might just listen or comment or join in.

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Yes, but neither a degree is needed to do that nor even the word “cognitive psychology”, as manipulation is as old as history itself and some people naturally have a sense of human psychology and how to work it.

To understand advertising, that is all BF Skinner. Personally, I am not a fan of behavioural psychology in the Skinner sense.

When it comes to things like online harassment and toxic engagement, the psychology is far more complex.

I created a five-year case study on internet harassment (primarily focusing on Media Wiki’s) and online misinformation, you can access this here if interested.