The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability
in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review
Un Hee Schiefelbein
, William Bortoluzzi Pereira
, Renan Lírio de Souza
Joao Carlos Damasceno Lima
and Cristiano Cortez da Rocha
Computer Science Graduation Program, Federal University of Santa Maria, Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
Penguin Formula, Lisbon, Portugal,
Keywords: Persuasive Technology, Sustainability, Energy, Water and Systematic Review.
Abstract: The use of persuasive applications to change behavior has presented efficient results in the most varied areas,
for example in the health area, applications send notifications remembering daily exercises and in addition to
losing calories you can still accumulate points. In the domains that involve sustainability linked to the use of
electric energy and water the persuasive applications have shown promise and present a good field to follow.
In this sense this work presents an investigation about which persuasive strategies are most used and which
can still be explored in the applications that seek to make the user have a sustainable behavior in the use of
water and electricity. This research has taken place through a systematic review.
Convincing the user through applications to perform
attitudes different from what he usually does has
proved to be an effective solution to some problems,
such as helping to lose weight, perform more physical
activities, or even help to have more sustainable
attitudes. To lose weight, for example, encouraging
messages in addition to calorie-losing charts can be
very persuasive.
Calls persuasive applications come precisely for
this purpose, providing changes in user behavior so
that attitudes occur naturally and may even become a
new habit.
Concern for the environment has been highlighted
lately, both large companies and at home simple
locals, this happens because of scarcity of natural
resources, accompanied by a large volume of waste
generated every day, in addition to high rates related
to the consumption of electricity and water.
In order to investigate works that create
applications that use persuasion to promote
sustainable behavior in relation to the use of
electricity and water, this article presents a systematic
According to (Kitchenham and Charters, 2007) a
systematic literature review is a means of identifying,
evaluating and interpreting all available research
relevant to a particular research question. In this
sense, the present systematic review investigates the
use of persuasive principles in systems that seek to
promote sustainability in the domains of energy and
water in domestic environments.
The process guidelines for systematic review
according to (Kitchenham and Charters, 2007) cover
three phases of a systematic literature review:
planning the review, conducting it and reporting it,
where the planning phase mainly involves the
identification stages of the need for review and
specification of the research questions, the
conduction phase of the review mainly involves the
stages of selection of the search string, selection of
the database and selection of articles by means of the
inclusion and exclusion criteria and finally the phase
of the review report mainly covers the stages of
analysis of the work in order to develop the final
report of the systematic review.
In this way the article is organized as follows:
section 2 the background that has some concepts
necessary for the understanding of the work. In
section 3 the systematic review and its steps and in
section 4 the conclusion.
Schiefelbein, U., Pereira, W., Lírio de Souza, R., Lima, J. and Cortez da Rocha, C.
The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review.
DOI: 10.5220/0007800202580265
In Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems (ICEIS 2019), pages 258-265
ISBN: 978-989-758-372-8
2019 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
2.1 Persuasive Technology
The study of persuasive technologies arises with
(Fogg 2003), where research was directed at figuring
out how computing can help achieve persuasion.
The author, who is one of the first to use
persuasive technologies in computational research,
defines the technologies provided by persuasive
computing as interactive computing systems,
designed to change attitudes or behaviors, he
emphasizes that this process is not limited to sending
messages to influence users, but rather makes it
possible to send useful information that can somehow
support the development of a new habit or
positioning. Fogg (2003) has established 16
persuasive principles that if used in computer
applications increase the chances of persuading the
user, these 16 principles or persuasive strategies are
divided into 3 categories, tool, media or social actor,
which form the functional triad of Fogg.
Other authors have also devoted their research to
persuasive technologies (Oinas-Kukkonen and
Harjumaa, 2009), for example, define persuasive
systems as software or information systems designed
to reinforce, change attitudes or behaviors. It is
emphasized by (Fogg, 2003) and (Oinas-Kukkonen
and Harjumaa, 2009) that persuasion can not occur
through coercion or deception. Oinas-Kukkonen and
Harjumaa (2009) defined 32 persuasive strategies that
are part of their persuasive application design model,
the abbreviated PSD.
2.2 The Application of Persuasive
The increasing use of mobile devices has favored the
application of persuasion in web pages and
applications. Fogg (2009) cites some other
advantages of using the so-called mobile computing:
persistence, where it is possible to inform the user
countless times (automatically) about a given
situation, anonymity, it is possible to get where the
human being cannot go or not is welcome and lastly
the author cites scalability, where it is possible to
manage a large volume of data.
Currently different areas are using persuasion to
change users' habits, most often messages are sent
that remind or alert a certain behavior. A study by
(Matthews et al., 2016) in the form of a systematic
review, presented an analysis of some of the major
works that present mobile applications that promote
physical activities. Applications that use persuasion
for this purpose usually monitor physical activities
performed and send messages about their
performance, as well as personalized notification of
encouragement to physical activities. As conclusion
of this study (Matthews et al., 2016) realized that the
self-monitoring strategy was the most used by the
applications, as well as support for the dialogue for
feedback and social support strategies.
Domains within smart cities are also being tested,
the recent study (Anagnostopoulou et al., 2017)
shows several papers that have used applications with
persuasive technologies for sustainable urban
mobility. The applications send messages with
alternate routes, transit and time information, as well
as messages that allow the user to cycle through when
possible or walk to certain places.
In addition to the areas cited, numerous others are
increasing their research on the use of persuasion for
behavior change, areas such as education, conscious
consumption and areas related to sustainability. In the
section below will be presented a systematic review
that presents some of the main works found in the
literature that have developed persuasive applications
for change in the behavior in relation to the use of
electric energy and water.
3.1 Planning
In order to identify existing solutions around how
persuasive technology is applied in environments that
seek sustainability and in the same way to identify the
least used strategies in this context, the following
research question:
Q1 - What are the most and least persuasive
principles used in systems that aim at sustainability in
the domains of energy and water use in domestic
Q2 - What particularities do sustainability
persuasion systems have?
3.2 Conducting the Systematic Review
Elaboration of the search string: For the definition of
the search strings the words persuasive computing
and persuasive technology were used, between the
strings the boolean operator OR was used because the
words technology or persuasive computing have the
same meaning. As the research question aims to
answer sustainability issues involving water or
energy, these words were also separated by the
Boolean operator OR, so the research could be
The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review
broader. The search string is limited to titles, abstracts
and keywords, so use the TITLE-ABS-KEY
sentence. In this way the search string created is
represented in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Search string.
Definition of the database: the search was
performed in the online database Scopus Elsevier,
considered one of the largest databases of peer-
reviewed literature.
Inclusion and exclusion criteria: inclusion criteria aim
to direct the selection of articles that will answer the
research question and, on the other hand, the
exclusion criteria serve to retain articles that will not
be useful at this time of the research. The inclusion
criteria are represented by (I) and the exclusion
criteria by (E), as presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Inclusion and exclusion criteria.
(I-1) Studies that
contain terms of
computing or persuasive
technology and
sustainability issues in
the title, abstract or key
(E-1) Studies that were not in
the area of computer science.
(I-2) Studies that
have implemented or
designed systems that use
persuasive principles to
achieve sustainability.
(E-2) Studies that did not
contain terms of computing or
persuasive technology and
sustainability issues related to
energy or water in the title,
abstract or keywords.
(I-3) Studies that
have been designed for
domestic environments.
(E-3) Studies that addressed
only concepts and techniques and
did not develop some application
or that demonstrated the
applicability of persuasive
principles in the sustainable
(E-4) Studies involving
persuasive systems geared
toward sustainability have
however been tested or designed
for workplaces, public squares,
Extraction of works: The query in the database
was made in July 2018. Figure 2 represents the steps
for selecting the articles that were analyzed.
In the first stage, 324 articles were identified, after
the exclusion criterion (E-1) was applied, which
excludes non-computer science works. Then, the
exclusion criterion (E-2) was applied where the titles,
key words and abstracts were verified if the works
contained computing or persuasive technology terms
and sustainability issues related to water or energy,
leaving 113 articles. After an analysis of the 113
articles, the exclusion criterion (E-3) was applied,
where articles that did not implement any application
or that demonstrated the applicability of persuasive
principles in the sustainable environment were
excluded, in this way the inclusion criterion (I- 3) was
satisfied, the exclusion criterion (E-4) that excluded
articles that were designed or tested in public settings
such as squares, schools or work environments was
still applied. In this way, inclusion criteria (I-3) were
included, where only articles that were designed for
domestic environments were included. After reading
each one, 12 articles were still excluded, remaining
11 for review use.
Figure 2: Articles Selection Steps.
ICEIS 2019 - 21st International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
3.3 Report of the Review Results
3.3.1 Selected Works
Article 1 [A1]- In the work of (Foster, Lawson and
Blythe, 2010) occurred the deployment and
evaluation of the web system called Wattsup. To
create the system the end users themselves expressed
their opinions and ideas of what elements the system
could have. The system is integrated into the social
network Facebook, it shows data of energy
consumption and data related to CO2 release. In
addition, charts, rankigs and comparisons between
friends can be generated.
For the system test 8 houses were selected,
totaling 20 people. Participants were divided into 2
groups A and B, in the first moment the participants
of group A besides seeing the data of the own
consumption could see the data of the consumption of
friends in Facebook and the participants of group B
only had access to the own data. The experiment
lasted 18 days and the results showed that participants
who could compare their data with friends on the
social network were more motivated to use the system
and in addition they managed to save about 130kwh.
To evaluate the work, the authors used questionnaires
to find out what influence the system caused in them.
Article 2 [A2]- In the work of (Petersen, Steele and
Wilkerson 2009) a mobile application called WattBot
was developed with the purpose of monitoring and
providing a feedback on domestic consumption. For
design definition a group of local university working
with sustainability has helped. The application shows
the consumption of each device in the house in the
form of a ranking, the appliance that consumes more
energy is at the top of the list in red and as the
consumption is less the colors are lighter (orange,
yellow and green).
The tests mainly occurred to evaluate the design
of the application interface, the number of testers and
the time that was used was not identified at work.
Participants were able to navigate the application
and liked the way the power consumption was
arranged, but they would like to be able to compare
consumption with data from past consumption.
Article 3 [A3]- In the work of (Gamberini et al.,
2012) a game for web called EnergyLife was
developed, the game shows in letters form the
individual consumption of each domestic appliance
that consumes energy.
As the participant is saving energy he goes up the
level. At the first level he can only see the current
situation and the last week, then he starts to receive
saving tips, besides receiving questions that can add
up points. At the last level he can share his results
with other people.
The tests occurred for 4 months with 10
participants. Interviews were done at the beginning
and at the end of the experiment to evaluate the
participant's progress. The final results indicated
savings of approximately 33% in some equipment, in
addition to increasing the participant's awareness.
Article 4 [A4]- In the work of (Petkov et al., 2011) a
mobile application called EnergyWiz was developed,
it mainly uses social comparison resources. The
application shows real-time consumption, history,
challenges, ranking and comparisons between
neighbors. For design creation (Petkov et al., 2011)
were based on theory-oriented design (Card, 1998).
Tests were performed with 17 participants for 1 week.
One of the features of the app was choosing a friend
and keeping track of his friend for a week. In this way
the user was committed and above all motivated to
save energy. For the evaluation the answers of the
questionnaires were analyzed.
Article 5 [A5]- In the work of (Sundramoorthy et al.,
2011) was developed a web system called Dehems it
serves for home energy management. To create the
design, elements described by (Fitzpatrick and Smith
2009) were used. First a prototype was developed and
then the final system. The tests happened in 250
houses the duration of the tests took 4 months.
Users could track their consumption and also
compare them to neighbors. The system shows the
amount of gas and energy expended, in addition to
CO2 emission and monetary values. The participants
found it very clear how information is presented, so
they were always reflecting on their actions.
For evaluation, comparisons were made with the
data related to the energy and gas consumption of the
months prior to the experiment and interviews were
also conducted where they reported on their
sustainable activities. The results showed that it is
possible to have a significant reduction in energy use
through persuasive applications, but to prove that
there has been an improvement in environmental
awareness has not yet been possible, because often
the reduction in consumption happens because of
monetary values.
Article 6 [A6]- In the work of (Takayama et al., 2009)
EcoIsland was developed, a web system to reduce
CO2 emissions. EcoIsland is a game designed for
The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review
daily activities for a family that has an interest in
behaving in a more ecological way.
The family defines a target CO2 emission level
and the system tracks its current approximate
emissions using sensors. If the emission reaches the
target level, the water around the island increases and
at the end of the game.
The tests happened with 6 voluntary families, for
a total of 20 people. Families used the system for 4
weeks. At the end of the project evaluation, a
questionnaire was applied.
The results showed that 17 of the 20 participants
were more aware of environmental issues after the
experiment. 16 participants reported that they
acquired new knowledge about the subject. But
participants reported that often the motivation to
maintain sustainable habits was for reasons of the
game, such as not letting the island sink or increase
points and not for an improvement in the
Article 7 [A7]- In In the work of (Røsok 2014) it was
explored how smart energy meters can be combined
with social media. The concept involves the use of
collaborative group competition, where consumers
can join groups and compete with others in energy
savings, and can win prizes. The goal is to raise
awareness of energy as well as global awareness.
For the design of the prototype were interviewed
some families to collect elements that they found
important for motivation.
In the system it is possible to compare individual
consumption with the group, in the current day and
week or last month, the tests happened with 4 adults.
The results showed that the techniques used have
great potential to motivate consumers to use less
energy. Competition among individuals proved to be
very attractive to most participants, describing it as
the main motivational factor. In the project some
experts evaluated the interface and the end users
evaluated the usability and in both the result was well
Article 8 [A8]- In the work of (Perren et al., 2016)
the authors created a mobile application and a web
page that serves as support for decisions of domestic
water consumption. The project came up to take
advantage of existing environmental standards to
promote water saving, the main purpose of the work
was to test the efficiency of using different sources of
information during persuasion.
Information about domestic activities and the use
of water was collected and it was on this collected
information that expert tips were sent in order to make
the behavior of the user change. The tests occurred in
40 households for an unspecified time, users received
tips related to day-to-day activities, each message
compared information that the user had previously
reported and indicated a new behavior. The results
showed that the use of reliable sources.
Article 9 [A9]- In the work of (Paay et al., 2013) the
authors discovered eight techniques that proved to be
comprehensive for the persuasion of a sustainable
consumption of natural resources in the fields of
water and electricity saving. One system for advising
the use of water has been designed and another for the
reduction of electricity. The water-saving system
focused on supporting gardeners by watering the
garden, sending meteorological information, soil
moisture data and advice from horticultural experts in
order to influence gardeners to save water. In this
sense the gardeners skipped a few days of watering
the garden. The energy-saving system also provides
information from weather experts, community
councils and data on personal consumption.
The results indicated that the messages received
during the use of water and energy were very well
received in the sense of awakening the awareness of
their energy consumption. The eight techniques that
worked efficiently for both water and energy savings
were: self-comparison, trigger messages, use of
mobile devices, understandable messages,
personalized information, community information,
expert advice, and behavior change throughout time.
Article 10 [A10]- In the work of (Vilarinho et al.,
2016) was developed a web system called CoSSMic,
the concept of increasing energy consumption and
becoming a concept of greener behavior. In The
software was developed following the methodology
of research in design science anchored by the
application of User-Centered Design and theories of
persuasive computing.
The development of the user interface (UI) was
done after iterations with end users and expert
assessment. The main strategies for behavior change
addressed by the authors were, to apply social norms,
feedback techniques, social cues and gamification.
The tests were mainly done to evaluate how design
issues can help change behavior.
The results of the evaluation of the experts
showed that the use of social comparisons and
gamification can stimulate the motivation for
software with this objective. Feedback with
suggestions can trigger concrete actions in relation to
energy efficiency.
ICEIS 2019 - 21st International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
Article 11 [A11]- In the work of (Laschke et al.,
2011), a bath schedule was developed, where the
authors persuasively sought to reduce water
consumption in the bath.
The system designs a screen in the bathroom stall,
when a user starts his bath he tightens the play. Each
user is symbolized by a large colored circle, when the
bath begins the circle begins to decrease and then the
size of the circle is saved on the screen. The goal is
for each member of the family to try to decrease their
bath more and more.
The tests were carried out with 2 families totaling
6 people for 31 days. The results were different in the
two families, one had a significant reduction in water,
but the other did not obtain a very significant margin.
For Laschke et al., (2011) this is a common problem
of persuasive technologies, since change will depend
on whether the behavior change is important to the
user at that time.
3.3.2 Comparison of Related Work
After reading and analyzing the selected articles, a
Table 2 was generated with some of the particularities
of each article. For the information in the table the
following captions were created:
IP=Interviews with users and creation of a
Prototype based on information collected with end
QLE=Qualitative Evaluation, analysis of
interview responses. In general questions were asked
about the change in system behavior and usability.
QE= Quantitative evaluation, comparison of
historical data and current data on consumption, it
was verified whether there was reduction of
consumption and monetary expenditure.
NS= Not Specified.
From the point that some of the selected articles
diverge in the manner of the use of persuasion, Table
3 shows which are the main persuasive principles
used in each work was constructed.
3.3 Justification of the Chosen Criteria
The choice of criteria in Table 3 followed the
persuasive principles also analyzed in the systematic
review of Shevchuk, Oinas-Kukkonen (2016) where
the authors sought to identify which of the 28
persuasive principles present in the PSD created by
Oinas-Kukkonen and Harjumaa (2009) were used in
systems containing "green" solutions. The systematic
review of Shevchuk and Oinas-Kukkonen (2016) did
not address systems that were designed using
persuasion techniques.
Table 2: Special features of the selected articles.
In this sense the systematic review of the present
work used as a criterion of comparison the 28
principles present in the PSD, plus 3 persuasive
principles that the functional triad of (Fogg, 2003)
addresses but the PSD model does not. Another
criterion included was that of gamification, although
it is not considered as a persuasive principle, it has
techniques that directly map the implementation of
different motivational and triggering theories
(Vilarinho, 2016).
After analyzing each work presented in Table 3
were separated the 10 strategies or persuasive
principles that are most used in sustainable persuasive
systems, the list is in Table 4.
It is important to make it clear that persuasive
principles or strategies that were least used are not
ineffective, they simply have not been much tested.
In this way these principles can still be explored to
test their efficiency. Based on the identification of
these principles the research question from the
Systematic Review is answered.
The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review
Table 3: Persuasive principles present in each article.
Table 4: Principles/Strategies most used.
Principles/Strategies most used
Social learning
Normative influence
Real world feel
Social Comparison
The work presented a systematic review that has as
main objective to show which persuasive strategies
are most used in applications that seek sustainability.
The research focused on investigating works that
designed their systems of behavior change for
residential users, that is, were analyzed persuasive
systems that sought to persuade the user of common
residences to use energy and water sustainably.
As a result we have found some persuasive
strategies that are heavily used in systems that seek to
persuade the user to sustain behaviors. We can cite 3
strategies that have appeared a lot: self-monitoring
and simulation that most of the time are together,
where data is usually monitored and simulations are
performed that cause users to think about the
consequences of their actions, and another strategy
strongly used is facilitation social, where increasingly
the use of communities and social networks are being
incorporated into the projects, this way there is a great
deal of involvement with the application and users
can learn from each other. However, the use of the
social network to seek savings should be used with
attention according to Foster, Lawson and Blythe
(2010), because to stay connected to social network is
necessary to consume energy as well.
As can be seen in Table 3, there are many
persuasive principles / strategies that are few explored
and many have not yet been tested. Some new
strategies may also arise, such as gamification, which
was not actually listed as a persuasive principle by
Fogg (2003) or Oinas-Kukkonen and Harjumaa
(2009) but is now being included as a persuasive
principle (Vilarinho 2016).
ICEIS 2019 - 21st International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
Finally, as a systematic review, it is expected that
the persuasive strategies that are still little used in
applications related to the sustainable use of water
and electricity are more used and tested in order to
find out when they can be more efficient.
The authors would like to thank Penguin Formula for
partial supporting/funding of this research
and UFSM/FATEC through project number 041250 -
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The Use of Persuasive Strategies in Systems to Achieve Sustainability in the Fields of Energy and Water: A Systematic Review