Goal-setting dialogue for physical activity with a virtual coach

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Lack of physical activity is one of the main risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases. Although most people are aware of the risks of this poor health behavior, they have a hard time improving this behavior. Goal-setting is an effective step in the process of changing behavior. It can motivate a person and help them to remain focused on the desired outcome, which increases the chance of successfully achieving a goal. In this thesis, we studied the design of a goal-setting dialogue for a virtual coach to motivate people in the context of physical activity. The dialogue was designed to support people in setting SMART goals and to raise their self-efficacy. Part of the design was vicarious experiences in the form of examples of people who successfully achieved a physical activity goal. We gathered these examples and fit a model to predict which examples to show to a user during the conversation with the virtual coach. An experiment was conducted to evaluate whether there was an increase in users' self-efficacy after the conversation with the virtual coach, how motivating the given examples were, and users' attitudes towards the virtual coach. The results indicated that users' self-efficacy was lower after the interaction with the virtual coach. However, we found that people considered the given examples motivating and had a positive attitude toward the virtual coach.