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Digital Behaviour Change Intervention: Personalizing strategies for convincing people to act more cyber-securely

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Masthoff
    Dr M Collinson
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Digital behaviour interventions (also known as Persuasive Technology) encourage people to change their attitudes and/or behaviours. We are particularly interested in encouraging people to behave more cyber-securely and adapting the persuasive strategies used to the person’s personality and past behaviour.

We have conducted previous research on selecting persuasive strategies [1], on adapting prompts (in the medical domain) to personality [2], on persuading people to travel more sustainably [3], and on persuading people to be more physically active [4]. This PhD project will investigate what persuasive strategies are most effective to encourage somebody to act more cyber-securely, given the person’s past and present actions and their personality. The intention is to investigate this in an office environment. The PhD will build on work in the areas of Persuasive Technology (including Gamification), Intelligent User Interfaces, User Modelling and Personalization and Cyber-security.

The PhD will involve designing algorithms for motivating people to behave more cyber-securely, and performing user studies (both qualitative and quantitative) to inform and validate those algorithms.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Computing Science, Information Technology, Information Systems, Cognitive Science.

Knowledge of: Human-computer interaction, programming. Preferably also user modelling / personalization, experimental design, cyber-security.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only


[1] Vargheese, J.P., Sripada, S., Masthoff, J., Oren, N. (2016). Persuasive strategies for encouraging social interaction for older adults. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

[2] Dennis, M., Smith, K.A., Masthoff, J., Tintarev, N. (2015). How Can Skin Check Reminders be Personalised to Patient Conscientiousness? Proc.of the 1st International Workshop on Personalisation and Adaptation in Technology for Health. 23rd conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization, CEURWS

[3] Gabrielli, S. et al (2014). Design challenges in motivating change for motivating change for sustainable urban mobility. Computers in Human Behavior, 41, 416-423.

[4]. Nguyen, H., Masthoff, J. (2010). Mary: A personalized virtual health trainer. Adjunct Proceedings UMAP.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Computing Science. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Computing Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR and EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 2 projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor J Masthoff ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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