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Niess, Jasmin; Diefenbach, Sarah (2016): Communication Styles of Interactive Tools for Self-Improvement. In: Psychology of Well-Being, Vol. 6, 3


Background: Interactive products for self-improvement (e.g., online trainings to reduce stress, fitness gadgets) have become increasingly popular among consumers and healthcare interdisciplinary domain, the design of self-improvement technologies requires psychological, technological, and design expertise. One needs to know how to support people in behavior change, and one needs to find ways to do this through technology design. However, as recent reviews show, the interlocking relationship between these disciplines is still improvable. Many existing technologies for self-improvement neglect psychological theory on behavior change, especially motivational factors are not sufficiently considered. To counteract this, we suggest a focus on the dialog and emerging communication between product and user, considering the self-improvement tool as an interactive coach and advisor. Methods: The present qualitative interview study (N = 18) explored the user experience of self-improvement technologies. A special focus was on the perceived dialog between tool and user, which we analyzed in terms of models from communication psychology. Results: Our findings show that users are sensible to the way the product "speaks to them" and consider this as essential for their experience and successful change. Analysis revealed different communication styles of self-improvement tools (e.g., helpful-cooperative, rational-distanced, critical-aggressive), each linked to specific emotional consequences. Conclusions: These findings form one starting point for a more psychologically founded design of self-improvement technology. On a more general level, our approach aims to contribute to a better integration of psychological and technological knowledge, and in consequence, supporting users on their way to enhanced well-being.