Construal beliefs moderate the usability and effectiveness of a novel healthy eating mobile app

Menna Price, Suzanne Higgs, Laura Wilkinson, Michelle Lee, Rochelle Embling, Paula Kuberka, Alexandra Hamill, Jordan Collier, Samuel Keable-Steer, Thomas Reitmaier, Sabarna Mukhopadyay, Stephen Lindsay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
94 Downloads (Pure)


Reduced self-control is a strong predictor of overeating and obesity. Priming a high construal level mind-set has been shown to enhance self-control and reduce snack consumption in the lab but the long-term and real-world effects are not known. The use of digital technology is an efficient way to deliver priming cues in real-world settings. Many mobile apps claim to support healthy eating but few are grounded in psychological theories of self-control. The aim of this study was to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a novel, construal-theory-based mobile app to promote self-control and healthy eating. In an exploratory analysis, the moderating influence of user characteristics was also examined. Using an iterative process involving users at every stage of the process, a prototype mobile app was developed. The final version included a high construal, self-control priming task, sent personalised reminder cues before each eating occasion, provided a just-in time 'crave-buster' for unanticipated eating opportunities and an optional food log. In a longitudinal trial the app was used over an eight-week period (N=71; 51 females; M (SD) Age = 33.34 (11.68) years; M (SD) BMI = 26.22 (4.94)) with pre-post measures of weight, percent body fat and dietary intake. The app received high usability ratings on the System Usability Scale (M=76.55; SD=11.35), however food intake, per cent body fat and weight pre- and post- app use showed no significant change (p>.05). Exploratory analyses showed that baseline construal belief moderated the extent to which engagement with the app predicted dietary changes (p<.05). These findings indicate that this novel app was user-friendly and effective but that this was dependent on the user's characteristics. Future development in this area should consider tailoring apps to the specific characteristics of the user for improved support and effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112941
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Construal Level Theory
  • Healthy Eating
  • Tailoring
  • User Experience
  • Weight Change
  • mhealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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