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Using Digital Technology for Positive Behaviour Change

Human hand and android hand

More than a year into the pandemic, we still find it hard to remember to stay two metres apart and wear masks in public. Changing behaviours isn’t easy, and researchers and practitioners continue to look for new ways to help people sustain behavioural change.

Professor Pavel Andreev received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant to develop a comprehensive framework to design new habit formation decision support systems.

For Andreev, “behaviour change interventions targeting individuals are essential for human activities such as self-health management, maintaining social distancing and/or wearing a mask (as well as) climate-aware consumption and promotion of recycling and reuse.” However, “achieving sustainable behaviour change remains a challenge.”

Andreev’s project (Developing a new architectural framework for designing Digital Habit Formation Support Systems) is related to understanding and implementing digital transformation (DX) at different levels. For the researcher, “digital transformation isn’t about technology but about a radical and complete change in how individuals, teams and organizations use digital technologies to reshape and change the status quo with processes and outcomes, to create new possibilities and opportunities.”

Where current tech falls short

Technologies that support behaviour change have been around for decades, for example, those that promote healthy lifestyles like Wii Fit Plus, Noom or Fitbit. They’re meant to keep the user motivated to improve their health by increasing activity, tracking food and exercise, or social collaboration. Communications tools, web platforms and gamification environments all target behaviour change.

But despite their short-term success in engaging users, to date, these technologies have not succeeded in promoting long-term behaviour change.

One explanation is they don’t integrate habit formation principles into their design, such as cultural and behavioral traits or gender differences. Habits, learned behaviours that are repetitive and automatic, are a central component of sustained behaviour. They’re triggered by a stimulus (cue), leading to an action (behaviour change) that leads to a reward.

Designing with habit formation in mind

According to Andreev, “better understanding of how to create and integrate habit formation principles into the design of a decision support system is crucial for sustained behaviour change.”

His research will propose a framework for a habit formation support system that directly incorporates these principles.

Beyond benefiting digital health and digital transformation researchers and practitioners, as well as systems designers, this work will benefit all industries where effective implementation of new policies or practices are needed. Indeed, all of society will benefit from improved mobile or other technologies that can help achieve long-term behavioural change.

Pavel Andreev

Professor Andreev's research is focused on modeling and exploring the performance of commercial and non-commercial organizations at the individual, team, and organizational level.  Learn more about his work.


About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

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