Imagining Consequences of Excessive Smartphone Use via a Character-Based Mobile Application

Kenny K.N. Chow, Benny D. Leong, Brian Y.H. Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Excessive use of smartphones or other electronic screen products and the associated symptoms of addiction among youngsters have sparked concerns. This study explores possibilities of preventing adolescents or young adults from excessive smartphone use via a character-based mobile application stimulating their imagination and reflection. The character responds contingently to a user’s act of switching on or off the screen, causing one to associate the effects on the character with excessive use. This approach, grounded in the embodied cognition thesis, combines behavior with imaginative consequences for one to experience, which combat the rewarding neural pathways activated in addictive behaviors. The application was deployed in a field trial. Each participant’s usage was tracked via automated logging, and cognitive responses were probed through in-depth interviews. Interview data were analyzed, followed by comparison with logged data. Overall, about half of the participants attributed imaginative consequences to their ways of using phones. One third of the participants showed evidence of positive change in using phones. These two groups substantially overlapped. The results suggest that experientially grounded association of virtual consequences with physical acts could correlate with behavior change. Using figurative representation as feedback could be promising in supporting individuals for healthy habits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1434
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018


  • Embodied cognition
  • Interaction design
  • Internet addiction
  • Intervention
  • Liveliness
  • Smartphone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Imagining Consequences of Excessive Smartphone Use via a Character-Based Mobile Application'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this