Problem summary

People act according to their persona


  • Use when you want to change the beliefs and attitudes of your target audience
  • Use to set clear guidelines and norms of your community
  • Use to offer a playful frame for your platform of interaction letting users take on specific roles.

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You can put the power of role playing to use in several ways, each with different objectives:

  • Set clear community norms. Construct communities and contexts with norms allowing users to play a role their real-world persona would not allow.
  • A role to play. What happens if your system gives users a particular role to play or makes them feel like they are playing a role? Playing the role of an advocate of a given position may facilitate opinion change by prompting attention or retention of arguments supporting that position. Once a role has been accepted, the subject is often motivated to seek arguments to support the assigned position.
  • Alleviate dissonance. Accepting a role-played position can help reduce cognitive dissonance produced by opposing views.


How we act depends on the social norms and constructs of a context we are in. Role-playing allows us to understand situations not familiar to us by stepping in the shoes of others. Arguments perceived as self-originated may be more readily accepted than ones perceived as having originated externally.


Role-playing is a central method in self-persuasion theory developed by psychologist Carl Hovland in the 1940s and 1950s. In this theory, the receiver takes an active role in persuading him- or herself to change attitudes and behaviors with no direct attempt to convince from anyone or anything. Hovland argued that our decision making is determined by factors within us like our personality, self-esteem, education, or interest.

1 Self-persuasion at

2 Hovland, C. I., et. al. (1953) Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change, New Haven, Yale University Press

3 Mallard, Jessica. “Engaging Students In Social Judgment Theory.” Communication Teacher 24.4 (2010): 197-202.

4 Role Playing behavioral technique at Learning Loop

User Interface Design Patterns