Tailoring coaching strategies to users' motivation in a multi-agent health coaching application

Tessa Beinema*, Harm op den Akker, Lex van Velsen, Hermie Hermens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)


Embodied conversational agents are often included in health behaviour change applications as intelligent virtual coaches. A major challenge in their development is tailoring coaching dialogues to user profiles. Agents should collect information about the user and consequently adapt the strategy that guides their interactions.
Previous research discovered relations between users’ motivation profiles and potential effective coaching strategies. In the current paper, we describe an experiment with multiple agents that tests if users with certain motivation profiles prefer certain (tailored) strategies.
Participants were classified into four motivation groups (Intrinsic Motivation, External Regulation, Dual Motivation, A-motivation), following their responses to a questionnaire on motivation towards healthy living. Then, two coaches suggested a positively and a negatively tailored strategy. Participants rated these and chose their favourite.
Results (N = 108) show that the Dual Motivation group appreciated their positively tailored strategy more than their negatively tailored strategy, while intrinsically motivated participants appreciated both strategies. Furthermore, agents' likeability does not seem to influence strategy appreciation, while there was an effect of participant's age and gender.
We conclude that coaching strategies for dialogues with agents can be tailored to personal motivation to live healthy. Future research should focus on performing a long-term study in a real-life setting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106787
JournalComputers in human behavior
Early online date31 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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