Feasibility of generating structured motivational messages for tailored physical activity coaching

Ramya Ghantasala, N. Albers, Kristell M. Penfornis, Milon van Vliet, W.P. Brinkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Tailored motivational messages are helpful to motivate people in eHealth applications for increasing physical activity, but it is not sufficiently clear how such messages can be effectively generated in advance. We, therefore, put forward a theory-driven approach to generating tailored motivational messages for eHealth applications for behavior change, and we examine its feasibility by assessing how motivating the resulting messages are perceived. For this, we designed motivational messages with a specific structure that was based on an adaptation of an existing ontology for tailoring motivational messages in the context of physical activity. To obtain tailored messages, experts in health psychology and coaching successfully wrote messages with this structure for personas in scenarios that differed with regard to the persona’s mood, self-efficacy, and progress. Based on an experiment in which 60 participants each rated the perceived motivational impact of six generic and six tailored messages based on scenarios, we found credible support for our hypothesis that messages tailored to mood, self-efficacy, and progress are perceived as more motivating. A thematic analysis of people’s free-text responses about what they found motivating and demotivating about motivational messages further supports the use of tailored messages, as well as messages that are encouraging and empathetic, give feedback about people’s progress, and mention the benefits of physical activity. To aid future work on motivational messages, we make our motivational messages and corresponding scenarios publicly available.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1215187
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Digital Health
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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