Catellani, P., Carfora, V., Biella, M. Brischigiaro, L., Manera, M., Nardone, A., & Piastra M. (2023). A theory-based and data-driven approach to promoting physical activity through message-based interventions. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1200304.
Objective: We investigated how physical activity can be effectively promoted with a message-based intervention, by combining the explanatory power of theory-based structural equation modeling with the predictive power of data-driven artificial intelligence.
Methods: A sample of 564 participants took part in a two-week message intervention via a mobile app. We measured participants’ regulatory focus, attitude, perceived behavioral control, social norm, and intention to engage in physical activity. We then randomly assigned participants to four message conditions (gain, non-loss, non-gain, loss). After the intervention ended, we measured emotions triggered by the messages, involvement, deep processing, and any change in intention to engage in physical activity.
Results: Data analysis confirmed the soundness of our theory-based structural equation model (SEM) and how the emotions triggered by the messages mediated the influence of regulatory focus on involvement, deep processing of the messages, and intention. We then developed a Dynamic Bayesian Network (DBN) that incorporated the SEM model and the message frame intervention as a structural backbone to obtain the best combination of in-sample explanatory power and out-of-sample predictive power. Using a Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) approach, we then developed an automated, fast-profiling strategy to quickly select the best message strategy, based on the characteristics of each potential respondent. Finally, the fast-profiling method was integrated into an AI-based chatbot.
Conclusion: Combining the explanatory power of theory-driven structural equation modeling with the predictive power of data-driven artificial intelligence is a promising strategy to effectively promote physical activity with message-based interventions.