How Technology Influences Human Behaviour…

Computers are now ubiquitous and embedded in our everyday lives. For example, it is now possible to independently and remotely learn (a new language or subject), monitor our health or wellbeing, become greener and more energy efficient, save money, overcome an addiction, and so forth through the use of different technological services.

As our lives have increasingly become intertwined with technology, studying how our everyday actions are influenced by our interactions with technology and how we can achieve positive and sustainable behaviour change through the use of various technological services is of utmost importance. With the many opportunities technology now avails, it is important to investigate how to design and develop appropriate solutions that fulfill users’ needs and how this impacts users’ livelihoods. It is not only about individual users interacting with technology, but also how they adapt their interactions with one another using technology as a medium.

An overarching theme in my research has been studying how individuals understand their interactions with technology and their perceptions on the efficacy of different technological interventions. Further, my research examines how systems design can facilitate user engagement and influence behaviour. I use an interdisciplinary approach to address research questions by integrating literature from Information Systems, Social Psychology, Behavioural Economics and Human-Computer Interaction that explain systems adoption and use practices, decision making and user behaviour in different contexts. Theories from these support design practices and can help in outlining systems design requirements.

PhD Research

My PhD research focused on behaviour change and the design of persuasive systems. The design of systems to help users meet their health, productivity, learning and other objectives without deception or coercion. This included investigating systems use, user perceptions of these systems and the factors that lead to continued use of behaviour change support systems (BCSSs). I also examined user commitments, the factors that affect users’ decision making and proposed techniques for improving the development of BCSSs. As my research is about behaviour change through technology, it was important to study users’ needs and the broader implications of applying different systems design approaches to meet these needs.

The dissertation’s main aim was to investigate how the design of persuasive systems could be improved. The dissertation consisted of a literature review, two quantitative studies, and two constructive studies that outlined the use of software design patterns to develop BCSSs. The research suggested that users have different preferences and perceptions on systems use and because of other factors beyond their conscious control, they might not use systems as originally intended. There is a need to have a deep understanding of the problem area–users and the contexts they own. Therefore, in order to develop appropriate recommendations and guidance for users, developers need to understand how different persuasive strategies facilitate user engagement, social interaction and how the strategies can help to counterbalance factors that lead to the failure of digital interventions. Overall, the results reveal that integrating judgement and decision-making research explaining why people deviate from expected behaviour and software design patterns can help to improve the development and efficacy of BCSSs.

An overview of my research is available from here.

Current Research Interests

My current research continues to investigate the design and impact of digital interventions on users. Additionally, further research interests include investigating how technology can be used to address problems facing the marginalised in society and community-based digital approaches to encourage active lifestyles.

Plans for the former include investigating the role of self-regulation, users’ need for cognition, goal attributes and user modelling on behaviour change. This is because users of BCSSs are not homogeneous, they differ in terms of their self-regulatory behaviours, their orientation towards goal setting and in the extent to which they engage in and enjoy difficult cognitive activities1. Because of these differences, users may require various forms of support and tailored persuasive strategies to help them fulfil their primary intent through a system.

For the latter, the exploration of how technology can be used to address the needs of the marginalised was in collaboration with a colleague from Cambridge, United Kingdom. The research focuses on understanding the needs of the under-represented population in society, their experiences of service provision and the outcomes. Under-represented communities could include asylum seekers, low-income communities, those without access to financial services, those living in rural areas2 and so on. The primary aims are to understand the needs of the marginalised and to determine how digital interventions are being used or could be used to meet these needs.

Community-based digital approaches for active lifestyles includes investigating the role of technology as a mediator of social relationships and its influence on people’s interactions with public spaces.

  1. J. Hamari, L. Hassan, and A. Dias, ‘Gamification, quantified-self or social networking? Matching users’ goals with motivational technology’, User Model. User-adapt. Interact., vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 35–74, 2018. 

  2. A. Majchrzark, M. L. Markus, and J. Wareham, ‘Designing for Digital Transformation: Lessons for Information Systems Research From the Study of ICT and Societal Challenges’, MIS Q., vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 267–278, 2016.