Online Peer Support Groups for Behavior Change: Moderation Requirements
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Journal: Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing
Volume: 385 LNBIP
Technology-assisted behaviour awareness and change is on the rise. Examples include apps and sites for fitness, healthy eating, mental health and smoking cessation. These information systems recreated principles of influence and persuasion in a digital form allowing real-time observation, interactivity and intervention. Peer support groups are one of the behavioural influence techniques which showed various benefits, including hope installation and relapse prevention. However, unmoderated groups may become a vehicle for comparisons and unmanaged interactions leading to digression, normalising the negative behaviour and lowering self-esteem. A typical requirement of such groups is to be of a social and supportive nature whereas moderation, through humans or artificial agents, may face a risk of being seen as centralised and overly managed governance approach. In this paper, we explore the requirements and different preferences about moderators as seen by members. We follow a mixed-method approach consisting of a qualitative phase that included two focus groups and 16 interviews, followed by a quantitative phase, including a survey with 215 participants who declared having well-being issues. We report on the qualitative phase findings achieved through thematic analysis. We also report and discuss the survey results studying the role of gender, self-control, personality traits, culture, the perception of usefulness and willingness to join the group as predictors of the members’ expectations from moderators, resulted from the qualitative phase.