8th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare

Research Article

Learning healthy habits with a mobile self-intervention

  • @INPROCEEDINGS{10.4108/icst.pervasivehealth.2014.254951,
        author={Janne Vainio and Ilkka Korhonen and Kirsikka Kaipainen and Outi Kentt\aa{} and Joona J\aa{}rvinen},
        title={Learning healthy habits with a mobile self-intervention},
        proceedings={8th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare},
        keywords={mobile intervention design learning theories dialogue support pilot test habit change behavior change},
  • Janne Vainio
    Ilkka Korhonen
    Kirsikka Kaipainen
    Outi Kenttä
    Joona Järvinen
    Year: 2014
    Learning healthy habits with a mobile self-intervention
    DOI: 10.4108/icst.pervasivehealth.2014.254951
Janne Vainio1,*, Ilkka Korhonen1, Kirsikka Kaipainen2, Outi Kenttä1, Joona Järvinen1
  • 1: Tampere University of Technology
  • 2: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
*Contact email: janne.m.vainio@tut.fi


Health interventions aim to influence behavior by creating healthy habits that substitute existing unhealthy ones. Habits are often deeply ingrained but also easily disrupted in new situations. This makes habit change a life-long learning and adaptation process rather than a one-time task with limited duration. Therefore, modern understanding of learning may be applied in designing effective and sustainable health interventions. We have designed the “Mindless Change” mobile intervention based on a framework of modern learning theories. The self-intervention guides the user in habit formation through small daily changes, supported by a user selectable simple cartoon type of avatar with varied dialogue. We conducted a four-week pilot study with 66 participants to assess the feasibility of our intervention and especially the contribution of the avatar. Users found the self-intervention intuitive and easy to use but the attrition remained a challenge in this open pilot where participants were not provided any external motivation, support or incentives to start and continue using the service. The results suggest that even a simple non-anthropomorphic support avatar can be beneficial for the health intervention. Our findings encourage investigating further the concept of a simple virtual supporter in self-administered health interventions.