The Impacts of Gameful and Interactive Technologies on Hindering or Promoting Self-regulation
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Self-regulation is the essential component of goal pursuit that allows us to make better decisions and resist temptation of unwanted desires, which ultimately impacts our well-being. It is essential to identify and understand factors that hinder or facilitate our successful self-regulation that have the potential to improve people’s competency to effectively self-regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Interactive media technologies, specifically games, present environments that could greatly affect self-control and self-regulation processes for better or for worse. Despite the considerable impact of rapidly changing technologies on self-regulation, the relationship between design aspects of technologies and self-regulation or self-regulation improvement are not well studied. The downside of the rapid pace of modern technological advancement is constantly encountering new phenomena that could hinder self-regulation mechanisms, without these phenomena being properly studied. On the other hand, such advancements provide a compelling opportunity to design interactive technologies to help people improve their self-control and self-regulation. Specifically, there is great potential of media technologies to shape our motivations and the ways we experience the world (e.g., our visual experience), which increases the appeal and importance of exploring the connection between interactive technologies and self-regulation, especially with respect to self-regulation improvement, which is the primary focus of this thesis. I first investigate how design elements can impact self-regulation success or failure in a widely used yet underexplored phenomenon of free-to-play games. In chapter 3, I present a correlational survey study (Study 1) that explores the connection between free-to-play games and their impact on self-regulation. The findings of the study indicate a relationship between trait self-control and players’ in-app purchasing decisions. It also identifies players’ self-regulation struggles and failures when playing such games. I then explore improving a person’s self-regulation through increasing their capacity for self-control. In chapter 4, I present the design and implementation of a self-control game to investigate how we can use gameful interactive technologies to improve cognitive control. I also present an empirical study (Study 2), which shows the potential of using self-control games to engage players without creating a negative player experience or undermining intrinsic motivation. In chapter 5, I provide a commentary on the resource model of self-control (i.e., ego-depletion research) and controversies surrounding the topic. The commentary provides a critical review of current state of research and a possible approach to tackle the issue. I next demonstrate and evaluate the need for a broader approach to improving self-regulation of desires and behaviours in a series of three experimental studies. I first discuss the importance of adopting broader approaches that can directly target and improve self-regulation mechanisms. In chapter 6, I provide a critical review regarding the role of psychological distance in understanding self-regulation and self-regulation mechanisms and its potential for new insight to create novel interactive technologies that is explored in the next experimental studies (Studies 3-5). In the following chapters 7-9, I therefore highlight a need for broader approaches for improving self-regulation of desires and behaviours, which encompasses a series of experimental studies to implement and test simple interaction techniques to boost and improve self-regulation. In chapter 7, I present a pre-registered online experiment (Study 3) that explores the possibility of impacting perception of temporal distance and abstraction through simple design considerations such as using a framing effect, the results of which did not reveal a considerable impact of the framing effect on temporal distance and on abstraction. Notably, I found contradictory evidence to what is presented by construal-level theory on the relationship between abstraction and psychological distance. In chapter 8, I present a lab experiment (Study 4) to study another simple interaction technique to distance tempting foods through saturation and framing effects using tablet technologies, the results of which show the effectiveness of using saturation to reduce temptation and unwanted desires by visually mediating the experience of tempting palatable food items. In chapter 9, I present the design of a mobile application for testing the use of the saturation effect and increasing the perception of distance directly in a mobile application. I then present a pre-registered longitudinal experiment (Study 5) that explores the effectiveness of this technology and the interaction techniques in a more realistic environment. The findings revealed preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of design features and interaction techniques such as changing saturation and perceived distance of tempting food items. Overall, the focus of the research presented in this thesis has been on the connection between design and self-regulation and self-regulation improvement, and particularly, in using interactive technologies and simple interaction techniques to help people improve their self-control and self-regulation, and ultimately achieve their goals.
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Milad Soroush (2021). The Impacts of Gameful and Interactive Technologies on Hindering or Promoting Self-regulation. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16877