Creative technologies for behaviour change

The core of this project is to develop new technological tools to encourage healthier behaviour.


  • Experimental Psychology
  • Behaviour Change
  • Social Robotics


The plan is to use psychological theories of motivation and existing counselling techniques as a basis for creating virtual health interventions that tackle unhealthy lifestyles, including tobacco smoking and food addiction, as well as encouraging physical activity. We will use a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore whether motivational interventions are acceptable and effective when implemented in technology rather than through one-to-one human interaction, and to test the efficacy of virtual health interventions for changing behaviours.


David Kavanagh; Queensland University of Technology; Behaviour Change Technology.

Detailed Description:

In this current project, our challenge is to generate a motivational tool to encourage people to change their behaviour. For this reason, we will develop a virtual health intervention based on psychological theories of motivation and existing counselling techniques that will be firsly tested in encouraging physical activity.

There are tools to help people plan and monitor their activity, but those tools need the person to be motivated to use them, as well as to engage in the activity itself. We focus on developing a tool to increase and sustain motivation. Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick, 2012) is a widely used and effective brief intervention (Rubak et al., 2005) but usually delivered in face-to-face interactions. The initial phase of this project will be to develop a virtual health intervention with video counsellors based on motivational interviewing. The challenge of this current study is to implement this planed virtual health intervention through virtual communication with the same effectiveness of real-life interactions.

The goal of the project is to develop a virtual motivational intervention that is acceptable, effective, and accessible whenever and wherever motivational support is needed. Potential developments for the final phase of data collection include implementing the intervention in computerised animations, holographic projections, and social robotics.

Research Fellow
Joana Galvão

Jackie Andrade, Tony Belpaeme, Jon May (Plymouth University), David Kavanagh, Dian Tjondronegoro (Queensland University of Technology)

Further Reading
  • May, J., Andrade, J., Kavanagh, D. & Hetherington, M. (2012) 'Elaborated Intrusion theory: A cognitive-emotional theory of food craving' Current Obesity Reports 2 (1), pp 114 - 121 doi:10.1007/s13679-012-0010-2
  • Kavanagh, DJ., Andrade, J. & May, J. (2005) 'Imaginary relish and exquisite torture: The elaborated intrusion theory of desire' PSYCHOL REV 112 (2), pp 446 - 467 doi:10.1037/0033-295X.112.2.446