Persona Transparency: Analyzing the Impact of Explanations on Perceptions of Data-Driven Personas

Joni Salminen, Joao M. Santos, Soon Gyo Jung, Motahhare Eslami, Bernard J. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Computational techniques are becoming more common in persona development. However, users of personas may question the information in persona profiles because they are unsure of how it was created. This problem is especially vexing for data-driven personas because their creation is an opaque algorithmic process. In this research, we analyze the effect of increased transparency–i.e., explanations of how the information in data-driven personas was produced–on user perceptions. We find that higher transparency through these explanations increases the perceived completeness and clarity of the personas. Contrary to our hypothesis, the perceived credibility of the personas decreases with the increased transparency, possibly due to the technical complexity of the persona profiles disrupting the facade of the personas being real people. This finding suggests that explaining the algorithmic process of data-driven persona creation involves a “transparency trade-off”. We also find that the gender of the persona affects the perceptions, with transparency increasing perceived completeness and empathy of the female persona, but not for the male persona. Therefore, transparency may specifically assist in the acceptance of female personas. We provide practical implication for persona creators regarding transparency in persona profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)788-800
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 8 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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