Targeting the automatic: Nonconscious behaviour change using technology


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Pinder, Charlie (2018). Targeting the automatic: Nonconscious behaviour change using technology. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Digital interventions have great potential to support people to change their behaviour. However, most interventions focus on strategies that target limited conscious resources, reducing their potential impact. We outline how these may fail in the longer-term due to issues with theory, users and technology. We propose an alternative: the direct targeting of nonconscious processes to achieve behaviour change.

We synthesise Dual Process Theory, modern habit theory and Goal Setting Theory, which together model how users form and break nonconscious behaviours, into an explanatory framework to explore nonconscious behaviour change interventions. We explore the theoretical and practical implications of this approach, and apply it to a series of empirical studies.

The studies explore nonconscious-targeting interventions across a continuum of conscious attention required at the point of behavioural action, from high (just-in-time reminders within Implementation Intentions) to medium (training paradigms within cognitive bias modification) to low (subliminal priming). The findings show that these single-nonconscious-target interventions have mixed results in in-the-wild and semi-controlled conditions.

We conclude by outlining how interventions might strategically deploy multiple interventions that target the nonconscious at differing levels of conscious attention, and by identifying promising avenues of future research.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
School or Department: School of Computer Science
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software


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