Mia Suh UX & HCI Researcher [ Home Page ]
Designing for Temporal Motivation

We all make plans for the future, perhaps to join in a local festival next week, or participate in an online course starting next month. However, we don’t necessarily stick to the future plans.

People’s intentions change with time—- we can all recount times when we plan to do something, but then decide against it when the time comes. This presents challenges when designing systems that support future behaviors, such as event-based social network systems, personal tracking devices with goal-setting features, and calendar systems. How can technology design help planning behavior?

Time The Examples: In a Wide Range of Systems, Time Plays an Important Role in its Usage.

In this project, my goals were to:
  • Understand how time plays a role in people's goals and motivation
  • Understand how people's attention changes depending on time
  • Generate the design guidelines for temporal motivation in technology design
To investigate potentials of how technologies could leverage temporal motivation, I conducted a set of generative studies. Each method was chosen to address the specific research questions in the studies.
  • Field Experiment (Participants: University student)
  • Online Experiment (Participants: Amazon Mechanical Turk)
  • Eye Tracking (Participants: University student)

Some screenshots from the survey (SurveyGizmo, left) and its deployment at Amazon Mechanical Turk (the list of HITs I published, right).

I found that as temporal distance to a planned behavior decreases, intention to perform the behavior systematically lowers. I also found that attitude about the target is more salient the further away the event as people focus on the why of a behavior; whereas perceived behavior control influences motivation in both near and far future. Moreover, in the far future, people may consider factors related to behavior control, if they are motivated to do so. As shown the image below, what matters to people changes as the planned date approaches. It was published in ACM CHI 2016.

The Visualization on the Major Findings: How one's motivation is changed as time goes by - when an event is far in advance, one's attitude toward the event matters, but its effect diminishes as the event date approaches.

Using an eye-tracking equipment, I also found the same pattern from behavioral data. When event is approaching, people are likely to pay less attention on "why the event is important", but more attention on "how to attend the event". The heat-maps of the gaze data show where people pay attention in reading online information also differs by time. Through a lab experiments in between-subjects design with 53 participants, I found that people pay more attention on the contextual information (time, location, 1st paragraph in the stimuli below) when the event is planned in the near future (right on the below image), rather than the far future (left).
The Visualization on the Major Findings: How one's motivation is changed as time goes by - when an event is far in advance, one's attitude toward the event matters, but its effect diminishes as the event date approaches.
My exploration on temporal motivation expands our understanding on how time plays a role on decision making, and how it could be further utilized in technology design. I suggest to use time-based strategies to increase user engagement depending on the goal of design.
  • Design Goal 1 : Encouraging people to stick to their plans in the near-term
  • The designs need to be salient and support the belief of feasibility of the behavior. Provide the information that help users assess the cost of activity, barriers and how to perform the activity. These will help improve users’ self-efficacy, and stick to the proximal behaviors as intended.

  • Design Goal 2 : Get Widespread Attention from People
  • When marketing a new event, or when promoting campaigns, or when introducing new functions in the system, designers and event organizers may need to gain early and widespread attention from people. To do so, increasing positive attitudes toward events or activities should be focused.List up multiple reasons why they should perform the behaviors, focusing on instrumental (e.g., how important or useful the behavior could be) and affective anticipations (e.g., how pleasant or fun the behavior could be) that they may have.

  • Design Goal 3 : Improve RSVP Accuracy
  • There are scenarios where designers and organizers may not care how many people sign up initially, but want a better assessment of how many people will actually attend. Our findings suggest that providing people their “ability” to participate could help them better consider their feasibility toward the plans. For example, when designing the RSVP, designer could include and highlight additional information related to the how of the event, such as actual distance (projected time to travel) to an event, weather forcast, and other costs. The RSVP can also point out potentially conflicting events. Encouraging people to think more on the decision, may also enable them to make more accuracte assesssments of the future behaviors.

Minhyang (Mia) Suh & Gary Hsieh (2016). Designing for Future Behaviors: The Effect of Temporal Distance on Planned Behaviors, In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI'16). ACM. 1084-1096. [PDF]

Minhyang (Mia) Suh (2017). Design for Temporality, HCI@KAIST Seminar, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejun, Korea

Minhyang (Mia) Suh (2017). Eye-tracking Construal Levels: How Temporal Distance Affects Attention, InfoSocial2017, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL [PDF]

Minhyang (Mia) Suh & Gary Hsieh.(2016) Design for Temporality of Future Behavior Change, Human Centered Design & Engineering Research Showcase, Seattle, WA [Poster]

This is the major part of my dissertation. While working with my advisior, Gary Hsieh, I did:
  • Lead the project
  • Design a series of different experiments
  • Create the study materials (manipulations, survey pages, web-page mock-ups)
  • Recruit participants & run the studies in various contexts (Amazon Mechanical Turk, eye-tracking lab study, online survey via social network services)
  • Communicate the results in the form of academic publications and presentations to various audiences

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