Personality change interventions; MobileCoach intervention platform; Randomized controlled trial (RCT); Mobile technology-based interventions; Design science; Intentional personality change; Smartphones; Longitudinal methods; Personality change
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Background. Longitudinal research has shown that personality traits are changeable over longer time periods, and that changes may bring about positive life outcomes such as greater success in work and family, better health, and longevity. Research also found that most people want to change or modify some aspects of their personality. However, less is known about the short-term changeability of personality traits, and non-clinical psychological interventions for intentional personality change over relatively short periods of time are lacking. To stimulate intervention efforts and to maximize the effects of future interventions, Allemand and Flückiger (under review) proposed a generic intervention model based on empirically derived general change mechanisms. One promising approach to deliver interventions is using mobile technologies. Mobile technology-based interventions (MTBIs) allow a proactive delivery of short communications at any time and place and the distribution of individualized information that help people to achieve their change goals. The main aim of the planned research program is thus to test the efficacy of a MTBI for intentional personality change using a novel open source platform that supports the design of evidence-based, scalable and low-cost interventions (www.mobile-coach.eu; Filler, Kowatsch et al. 2015). The research strategy is threefold: (1) to develop a MTBI to change personality traits, (2) to examine its efficacy to change personality traits in the desired direction, and (3) to examine underlying processes and mechanisms in an effort to improve the intervention outcomes. Methods/Design. This project combines interdisciplinary expertise from longitudinal personality psychology, psychological intervention research, information systems research and computer science to develop and evaluate a MobileCoach-based MTBI to support intentional personality change. The first research strategy relates to design science research and focuses on the development of a mobile application with sensor services relevant to the personality change intervention and a communication service that mediates the interaction between a conversational agent and the user. Two types of agents will be experimentally manipulated: (a) a low (impersonal) vs. (b) a high (personal) anthropomorphic conversational agent. Experiments and pilot studies will be conducted to test and improve the manipulation and the technical feasibility of the MTBI. The second and third strategies refer to process-outcome intervention research and will include a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with intensive longitudinal methods to test for the efficacy of the MTBI with the two experimental intervention conditions in comparison to a minimal assessment control condition. The MTBI will provide (a) individually tailored microinterventions including learning and action strategies and change techniques to stimulate and maintain a change process, and (b) individually tailored monitoring and progress feedback. The intervention will use mobile communication services to deliver strategies and change techniques, to keep them communicating with the conversational agent and to practice, to promote change commitment and motivation, and to support the change process. Participants in the two experimental conditions will be actively involved in one or more dialogs with the agent per week over a time period of 3 months. Outcome variables will be assessed weekly to monitor the change process in action. Pre-, post, and 6-month follow-up outcome assessments and active (self-reports via agent-triggered dialogs) and passive process assessments (sensors) will be conducted by fully automated data collection strategies. Study participants will be 450 adults (150 per condition) who want to change or modify some aspects of their personality. Main outcome criterion will be the achievement of individual change goals. Relevance. This proposed research is the first testing the efficacy of a MTBI for intended personality change. Given that this novel intervention approach proves effective, it could be easily implemented in various non-clinical settings and could reach large numbers of people due to its low-threshold character and technical scalability. The project is innovative from a personality psychology point of view as it examines the short-term changeability of personality traits, from a psychological intervention perspective as it applies a new generic intervention model, and from an information systems perspective as it investigates how mobile sensor services and anthropomorphic conversational agents must be designed to effectively deliver individualized interventions in real life and real time.