Tailored Persuasion: Towards Theory-Based and Application-Oriented Narrative Interventions

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The overall aim of this thesis is to provide a foundation that could be used to enhance processes through which change is facilitated in Persuasive Technology. Inspired by the need to understand the users and their needs for change thoroughly, and to adapt persuasive interventions accordingly, two themes are identified and explored. The first theme focuses on the dissociation between theory and application of behaviour change observed in Persuasive Technology. The lack of systemicity that is a result of this phenomenon hinders the scientific advancement of the field since the effects of persuasive systems and their features cannot be linked to specific theoretical determinants of human behaviour. Further, the successful components of persuasive interventions cannot be identified and therefore they cannot be replicated or prescribed with predictable effects in similar situations.
An Integrative Conceptual Model of Behaviour Change is proposed in this thesis as the intermediate link through which theory and application of behaviour change could be connected. In addition to the model, practical and methodological tools to trace a direct path from theoretical constructs to system features are provided for interdisciplinary intervention designers. The link that is established between theoretical Behaviour Change Techniques and the design principles of Persuasive Technology was confirmed through the model and was evaluated using the features of a prototype application as a case study.
Adapting system features according to the change goals of their intended users is essential for enhanced changes towards the desired psychological and behavioural outcomes. However, the interventions could influence their targets more effectively if the message that is delivered through them is also tailored to the individual. This notion informs the second theme of this thesis that investigates a medium for tailoring intervention messages according to their intended recipients.
Narratives are investigated for their utility to be used as persuasive messages and their potential to be adapted according to their intended audience. After a series of theoretical, methodological, empirical, and practical explorations a methodology for persuasiveness by means of narrative relatability was created. The Relatability-Persuasiveness Methodology could allow intervention designers to plan and write persuasive stories adapted according to the stage of change of their audience towards a desired outcome. As measured by a proposed analytical coding schema and an empirical measure for persuasiveness by means of relatability, the methodology overall produces more relatable stories that also influence their audience more. Two versions of the methodology are explored. The paper version is determined as more effective for creative storytelling and intervention messages with no restrictions while the digital version which is integrated in a prototype application, is deemed more appropriate for messages that are prescribed and follow directions.
Both these themes, as they are not previously explored in Persuasive Technology, could be used to provide the initial, exploratory insights for related future research that could lead to the scientific and practical advancement of the field.
Date of Award22 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPeter Johnson (Supervisor) & Hilary Johnson (Supervisor)

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