Be Kind: Adaptive Persuasive Technology for Wellbeing

Research output: Other contribution


People have been intrigued by happiness and what it means to live a good and meaningful life for millennia. Researchers have become increasingly interested in studying the sources of happiness and which strategies are effective in leading to long-lasting and increased subjective wellbeing. Growing evidence shows that intentional engagement in kind activities and behaviours, such as performing acts of kindness, showing generosity or expressing gratitude, can have a significant effect on increasing and sustaining happiness. The rapid adoption and integration of technology in everyday life has provided a unique potential for developing persuasive interventions and digital behaviour change systems as tools for stimulating and enhancing pro-social behaviours and attitudes. Persuasive technologies have been shown to be effective in motivating people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours and could play a key role in designing effective interventions that increase subjective wellbeing. This thesis investigates how persuasive technology can encourage engagement in meaningful, achievable and enjoyable kind activities that prevent mental health problems and improve subjective wellbeing. The primary research contribution of this thesis is studying the design of an adaptive behaviour change intervention and evaluating its effectiveness in encouraging people to participate in kind activities and behaviours. We developed "Be Kind", an online intervention that personalises persuasive messages to motivate engagement in meaningful, achievable and enjoyable activities, which improve subjective wellbeing. We evaluated the effectiveness of the intervention in motivating behaviour change, influencing behavioural intention and improving subjective wellbeing. The results suggest that the intervention has a positive effect on people’s behaviour and leads to increased happiness. We investigated the actual persuasiveness of Cialdini’s persuasion principles, which formed the foundation for personalising the intervention. Our findings differ from work investigating perceived persuasiveness, indicating that what people perceive to be more persuasive is not necessarily what will persuade them to engage in a certain behaviour. Moreover, we explored how people’s susceptibility to different persuasive principles varies over a longer period of time. Exploring personalisation of persuasive technologies and understanding actual persuasive-ness is relevant to a wide variety of other domains. Our research will provide new insights and contribute as a foundation for the development of technology supporting people’s wellbeing, having implications for future work on personalising persuasive strategies and designing digital behaviour change interventions.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD Thesis
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen
Number of pages195
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Includes bibliographical references


  • Well-being
  • Persuasion (Psychology)


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