"The Persuasive Power of Text Messages in Motivating"
The Persuasive Power of Text Messages in Motivating Physical Activity in Young Adults Adity Mutsuddi Indiana University The many benefits of physical activity are well established, yet 62% of U.S. young adults (ages 18-24) are not active at recommended levels, defined as 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity everyday . The lack of physical activity among this population is of concern because many adult behaviors are established during late adolescence and early adulthood , contributing to the increase in obesity and other chronic diseases later in life. In my dissertation, I am investigating if text messages tailored to encourage physical activity among young adults are an effective intervention. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the factors that might affect the persuasive power of text messages in encouraging physical activity and suggest guidelines for designing persuasive text-message based support systems. 1. Persuasion with Text Messages Technology that is designed to change people’s attitude and/or behavior is termed Persuasive Technology . The use of text messages as persuasive technology to motivate behavior change is grounded in social cognitive theory  since text messages can be tailored to support personal goals, enhancing motivation through increased self-efficacy . Text messaging has become very popular over the years , making it a strong medium for intervention. Text messaging can also be cost-effective by eliminating the need for “someone” to send the messages by automating its delivery. However, we do not know if such a system will be accepted or effective in encouraging physical activity. Automated text messaging support-systems were useful in helping smokers to quit smoking  and Type I diabetic adolescents to adhere to regular insulin therapy (Sweet Talk)  but it was not effective in a bulimia nervosa aftercare program . In  participants thought the text messages were “impersonal” and the program “too computerized.” On the other hand in another study we conducted, free form text messages were exchanged among teenage girls to encourage each other to walk more, showed potential but it was not completely effective . One of the main reasons for its ineffectiveness was that the girls did not know what to say to motivate each other. It is not clear from these studies what would make a text-messaging support system effective. In my dissertation, I want to explore some of the factors that might have contributed to the success and failure of these systems and suggest guidelines for designing persuasive text-message based support systems. 2. Factors Affecting Persuasion Why did the automated text messaging support system succeed in the smoking cessation and insulin adherence programs? Why were the automated messages in the bulimia nervosa aftercare program “impersonal” and “computerized” when similar text messages were used successfully for the other two programs? If automated messages are too impersonal and free-form text messages are too unstructured for constructive messages, would customizable structured messages from a friend be more effective? In my dissertation I am exploring these questions and more by studying three factors that may contribute to the effect of text messages on motivating physical activity: 1) the technology used to deliver the intervention which in this case is text messaging 2) personal connection with the sender of the text message and 3) message tailoring to the level of motivation of the person receiving the messages. References 1. World Health Organization, “Obesity and Overweight,” Chronic Disease Information Sheet, http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/facts/obesity/en/index.html 2. 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