Stimulating Mobile Health Application Use with Fear Appeals and Social Upward Comparison: A Design Science Approach

Decanato - Facoltà di scienze informatiche

Data: 18 Novembre 2019 / 14:30 - 15:30

USI Lugano Campus, room SI-007, Informatics building (Via G. Buffi 13)

Armin Heinzl & Monica Fallon, University of Mannheim, Germany

Consumer health technology holds tremendous potential for improving health outcomes and assisting people in managing their health. However, the extent to which individuals actively use mHealth and its effects on improved outcomes is not always guaranteed. Moreover, the extent to which mHealth app developers use behavioral theories to guide the design of mHealth remains limited. The current study uses a design science approach to improve use of an mHealth artefact and explore the interaction effects of two well-known behavioral theories on use. In an offline context, prior work has shown that both protection motivation and social upward comparison positively influence behavior. It is, however, unclear how these mechanisms transfer to the technology-mediated mHealth context and whether both mechanisms can be employed in combination. Explanatory design theory requires systematically manipulating design features based on kernel theories to evaluate their effects on users. Following this design science approach, we design, theorize about, and evaluate four mHealth prototypes manipulating the theoretical instantiations based on protection motivation and social upward comparison. Elementary features of smartphone applications, namely push notifications and the continuous availability of user data, are used to instantiate these theories. We theorize how the prototypes compare regarding extent of use. Evaluating the artefact with n=138 participants in a five-week field experiment, we find that prototypes with social upward comparison stimulate more use than with protection motivation or a control condition. Moreover, we show that there is a negative interaction effect of protection motivation and social upward comparison, rendering their combined application less effective.

Prof. Armin Heinzl holds the Chair of General Management and Information Systems at the University of Mannheim’s Business School. Previously, he held the Chair of Business Informatics at the University of Bayreuth between 1996 and 2002. The aim of his research is to develop theories and methods for the design of IT systems and IT infrastructures as well as for software development. His research results based on empirical studies have subsequently influence on software-supported methods and tools. He is the co-founder and acting director of the Institute for Enterprise Systems (InES) at the University of Mannheim, and the academic director of the Digital Academy@Mannheim Business School. He has been a principal investigator and a member of the steering committee in the BMBF research campus M2OLIE, ForDigital, and Cloud Mall. See his Web page at for more information.
Monica Fallon is a PhD Student at the University of Mannheim. Her research interests are activity tracking and mHealth, technology-induced stress and stress management, and IT automation.

Host: Prof. Marc Langheinrich