Funded PhD studentship in CS/HCI

We are having an open call (till the position is filled) for a fully funded PhD studentship in Human-Computer Interaction and mobile Health.

Post description: 
A software toolkit for the study of technology-mediated nudging in health and wellbeing in the context of smartwatches

To a large extend, self-monitoring technologies in health and wellbeing nowadays rest on the assumption that knowledge leads to behavior change. We assume, for instance, that making people aware of how much, when, and where they walk, will lead them to uncover patterns in their behaviors and take actions to increase their physical activity. In fact, a recent study found that a stunning 94% of research prototypes have focused on the so-called ‘rational mind’. This reliance on the rational mind, and on self-monitoring as the path to behavior change, however, has side effects. For instance, high rates of abandonment of physical activity trackers have questioned the efficacy of these tools over the long term, while a recent study found that self-monitoring can even have adverse effects on one’s enjoyment of walking, psychological wellbeing, and consequently on her continued likelihood of walking. Dual process theory suggests that an alternative, and perhaps more effective way to influence individuals’ behaviors is to tap on their ‘automatic mind’. One such popular intervention is the strategic placement of road sign stripes closer and closer together as drivers approach a steep curve, making them believe that they are over-speeding. Such a simple intervention has been found to decrease car accidents by 36%. Similarly, in our own work, we have found a simple glanceable display of how inactive one was over the past hour to have tremendous impact on individuals’ later behavior. In fact, we found that, upon checking the feedback, if one saw that she walked ten (or less) minutes over the past hour, she had 77% chance of initiating a new walk over the next five minutes. Such interventions influence behavior subtly and without much cognitive attention. As a result, they provide the premise of making little steps towards a healthier lifestyle and of minimizing the adverse effects of extensive self-monitoring.

However, we currently have limited knowledge as to how to design for the ‘automatic mind’, or what Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein call ‘nudging’. To develop a substantial body of knowledge on technology-mediated nudging, we currently lack appropriate methods. The primary goal of this project is to develop a software toolkit and methodological framework for the delivery of nudging interventions. The toolkit will be built for Android Wear and iOS and will be built as an extensible framework supporting the design, administration and study of nudging interventions by non-technical experts such as behavioral scientists.

Relevant work:

  • Gouveia, R., Pereira, F., Karapanos, E., Munson, S. A., & Hassenzahl, M. (2016). Exploring the design space of glanceable feedback for physical activity trackers. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 144-155). ACM.
  • Gouveia, R., Karapanos, E., & Hassenzahl, M. (2015). How do we engage with activity trackers?: a longitudinal study of Habito. In Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 1305-1316). ACM (Best paper honorable mention)

Applicants should have:

  • An undergraduate degree from a recognized university in Computer Science or Engineering
  • A graduate degree in Computer Science or Engineering will be an advantage
  • Experience or strong interest in Human-Computer Interaction
  • Programming experience in a high-level programming language
  • Proven experience on Android and/or iOS development will be an advantage
  • Very good knowledge of English (spoken and written)
  • Organizational skills
  • Very good knowledge of English (spoken and written)
  • Prior research experience in academic or industrial settings will be an advantage

Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Evangelos Karapanos ( along with a recent CV.