Finding the Adaptive Sweet Spot

Balancing Compliance and Achievement in Automated Stress Reduction

Automated coaching systems offer a convenient, cost-effective way to reduce stress, which can be a serious health issue. However, one concern with such systems is compliance; users fail to achieve daily stress reduction goals because goals are too easy or too difficult. To address this, we built DStress (Design for Stress), a theoretically grounded system that sets adaptive goals in three coaching dimensions: Exercise, Meditation and Accessibility. DStress modifies goal-difficulty based on the individual’s immediately previous performance. In a 28-day deployment with 65 users, DStress reduced scores on one direct measure of stress almost in half, significantly more than two other non-adaptive coaching strategies. However, on a second direct stress measure, no improvement was found. There were also no improvements on other indirect stress measures. Analysis of 2842 user-generated reports suggests our findings were the result of DStress balancing compliance against the degree of challenge of the goals it would set.

CHI 2015

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