“Kind and Grateful”: A Context-Sensitive Smartphone App Utilizing Inspirational Content to Promote Gratitude
Author(s)Ghandeharioun, Asma; Taylor, Sara; Picard, Rosalind W.; Azaria, Asaph Mordehai Assaf; Taylor, Sara Ann
MetadataShow full item record
Background Previous research has shown that gratitude positively influences psychological wellbeing and physical health. Grateful people are reported to feel more optimistic and happy, to better mitigate aversive experiences, and to have stronger interpersonal bonds. Gratitude interventions have been shown to result in improved sleep, more frequent exercise and stronger cardiovascular and immune systems. These findings call for the development of technologies that would inspire gratitude. This paper presents a novel system designed toward this end. Methods We leverage pervasive technologies to naturally embed inspiration to express gratitude in everyday life. Novel to this work, mobile sensor data is utilized to infer optimal moments for stimulating contextually relevant thankfulness and appreciation. Sporadic mood measurements are inventively obtained through the smartphone lock screen, investigating their interplay with grateful expressions. Both momentary thankful emotion and dispositional gratitude are measured. To evaluate our system, we ran two rounds of randomized control trials (RCT), including a pilot study (N = 15, 2 weeks) and a main study (N = 27, 5 weeks). Studies’ participants were provided with a newly developed smartphone app through which they were asked to express gratitude; the app displayed inspirational content to only the intervention group, while measuring contextual cues for all users. Results In both rounds of the RCT, the intervention was associated with improved thankful behavior. Significant increase was observed in multiple facets of practicing gratitude in the intervention groups. The average frequency of practicing thankfulness increased by more than 120 %, comparing the baseline weeks with the intervention weeks of the main study. In contrast, the control group of the same study exhibited a decrease of 90 % in the frequency of thankful expressions. In the course of the study’s 5 weeks, increases in dispositional gratitude and in psychological wellbeing were also apparent. Analyzing the relation between mood and gratitude expressions, our data suggest that practicing gratitude increases the probability of going up in terms of emotional valence and down in terms of emotional arousal. The influences of inspirational content and contextual cues on promoting thankful behavior were also analyzed: We present data suggesting that the more successful times for eliciting expressions of gratitude tend to be shortly after a social experience, shortly after location change, and shortly after physical activity. Conclusions The results support our intervention as an impactful method to promote grateful affect and behavior. Moreover, they provide insights into design and evaluation of general behavioral intervention technologies.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Media Laboratory; Program in Media Arts and Sciences (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Psychology of Well-Being
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Ghandeharioun, Asma et al. “‘Kind and Grateful’: A Context-Sensitive Smartphone App Utilizing Inspirational Content to Promote Gratitude.” Psychology of Well-Being 6.1 (2016): n. pag.
Final published version