Persuasive technologies have been identified as a potential motivational tool to tackle the rising problem of physical inactivity worldwide, with research showing they are more likely to be successful if tailored to the target audience. However, in the physical activity domain, there is limited research on how culture moderates users’ susceptibility to the various persuasive features employed in mobile health applications aimed to motivate behavior change. To bridge this gap, we conducted an empirical study among 256 participants from collectivist (n = 67) and individualist (n = 189) cultures to determine their culture-specific persuasion profiles with respect to six persuasive features commonly employed in fitness applications on the market. The persuasive features include two personal features (goal-setting/self-monitoring and reward) and four social features (competition, cooperation, social learning and social comparison). We based our study on the rating of storyboards (on which each of the six persuasive features is illustrated) and the ranking of the six persuasive features in terms of perceived persuasiveness. The results of our analysis showed that users from individualist and collectivist cultures significantly differ in their persuasion profiles. Based on our rating measure, collectivist users are more likely to be susceptible to all six persuasive features (personal and social) than individualist users, who are only likely to be susceptible to personal features. However, based on our ranking measure, individualist users are more likely to be susceptible to personal features (goal-setting/self-monitoring and reward) than collectivist users. In contrast, collectivist users are more likely to be susceptible to social features (cooperation and social learning) than individualist users. Based on these findings, we provide culture-specific persuasive technology design guidelines. Our study is the first to uncover the moderating effect of culture on users’ susceptibility to commonly employed persuasive features in fitness applications.
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