PhD Thesis Defense: In the Quest for the Motivation App: Designing Effective Behavior Change Apps Through the Lens of the Self-Determination Theory

Gabriela Villalobos-Zúñiga

On January 27th Gabriela publicly defended her Ph.D. Thesis, becoming the first Pet Lab member to obtain a doctorate degree.

The jury was formed by:
Prof. Rafael Lalive, président
Prof. Kévin Huguenin, expert interne
Prof. Rita Orji, experte externe
Prof. Max Birk, expert externe

Check Gabriela’s Thesis Denfese video presentation here.

You can download her thesis here.

Not much time? No problem, here is the Thesis abstract:

“Mobile apps are used to support behavior change goals (e.g., stopping a lousy habit, increasing the physical activity frequency, or learning a new skill). Because these apps are pervasive, they are great tools to reach and help people in their self-improvement path towards better habits and well-being. However, users of these apps fail to reach their objectives because they lack the motivation to attain their goals. App creators might help to support motivation by integrating human motivation theories into their designs. Still, not many apps are theory- grounded. To address this issue, we organized our research around a comprehensive human motivation theory: The Self-Determination Theory (SDT). We explored three research streams: (1) developing an artifact that maps market app features to support the SDT Basic Psychological Needs (BPNs); (2) creating an SDT inspired physical activity app that provided empirical evidence that its design supported the BPNs; (3) providing empirical evidence of an SDT inspired app design that contributes to increasing the physical activity and motivation of individuals. The results of our studies show that the SDT can inform the design of behavior change app features. Moreover, these SDT inspired features can be used to create a physical activity app that improves individuals’ intrinsic motivation and physical activity level. This thesis results have practical implications for app designers, policymakers, and health practitioners whose interest lies in creating theory-informed and effective behavior change apps.”

About Gabriela Villalobos-Zúñiga

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