Building an Intelligent System to Reduce Impulsive Snacking by Providing Tailored and Contextualised Feedback

To control the “obesity epidemic”, health messages promote intentions to reduce unhealthy snacking. While general messages often fail to influence intentions, tailoring messages to the needs of individuals can increase healthy intentions1. Unfortunately, our “toxic environment” full of calorically-dense foods confronts people with temptations, making them forget their healthy intentions. Consequently, people often act on impulse and make unhealthy snack choices. This project therefore investigates whether an intelligent system can reduce unhealthy snacking by providing nudges/notifications via a mobile phone app tailored towards the person’s needs, time of the day and his/ her physical environment (location). Read more…

Abstract
The purpose of our study was to design an app that would help individuals in reducing their unhealthy snacking behaviors. The original plan was to test the app in a 2 (Context: Location-Aware vs. Random) X 2 (Message: Tailored vs. Random) between-participants experiment. We conducted a pre-test to determine the spots where people mostly got their unhealthy snacks. These were the spots where we would place beacons, which would enable the app to send messages at the right time.
Unfortunately, due to difficulties during the programming phase, we were not able to finish the app in the indicated time frame. At this moment, we do have a functioning app. However, due to the upcoming summer break we were not able to test on larger scale. Therefore we revised our research question, and decided to run a feasibility study. For this we will get 20 employees from the VU to test the app for seven days. Using this data we will write a protocol paper, so that future research can elaborate on the work that we have done so far. At the end of July, we hope to get our protocol paper published. Despite the fact that we were not able to test our original research question, we are glad to have a fully functioning app, and we hope that future research will continue our work.

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