Beyond self-tracking and reminders: Designing smartphone apps that support habit formation

Katarzyna Stawarz, Anna L. Cox, Ann Blandford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

162 Citations (Scopus)


Habit formation is an important part of behavior change interventions: To ensure an intervention has long-term effects, the new behavior has to turn into a habit and become automatic. Smartphone apps could help with this process by supporting habit formation. To better understand how, we conducted a 4-week study exploring the influence of different types of cues and positive reinforcement on habit formation and reviewed the functionality of 115 habit formation apps. We discovered that relying on reminders supported repetition but hindered habit development, while the use of event-based cues led to increased automaticity; positive reinforcement was ineffective. The functionality review revealed that existing apps focus on self-tracking and reminders, and do not support event-based cues. We argue that apps, and technology-based interventions in general, have the potential to provide real habit support, and present design guidelines for interventions that could support habit formation through contextual cues and implementation intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781450331456
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2015
Event33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015: Crossings - COEX, Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 18 Apr 201523 Apr 2015
Conference number: 33


Conference33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015
Abbreviated titleCHI 2015
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
OtherFor over 30 years, the CHI conference (pronounced ‘kai’) has attracted the world’s leading researchers and practitioners in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) from businesses and universities to share ground-breaking research and innovations related to how humans interact with digital technologies. The Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) CHI conference is the world's premiere conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, presenting a highly selective showcase of the very best advances across the disciplines of computer science, cognitive psychology, design, social science, human factors, artificial intelligence, graphics, visualization, multi-media design and other disciplines.
Internet address

Structured keywords

  • Digital Health


  • Behavior change
  • Habit formation
  • Smartphone apps


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