Staying the Course: System-Driven Lapse Management for Supporting Behavior Change


The negative effect of lapses during a behavior-change program has been shown to increase the risk of repeated lapses and, ultimately, program abandonment. In this paper, we examine the potential of system-driven lapse management — supporting users through lapses as part of a behavior-change tool. We first review lessons from domains such as dieting and addiction research and discuss the design space of lapse management. We then explore the value of one approach to lapse management — the use of “cheat points” as a way to encourage sustained participation. In an online study, we first examine interpretations of progress that was reached through using cheat points. We then present findings from a deployment of lapse management in a two-week field study with 30 participants. Our results demonstrate the potential of this approach to motivate and change users’ behavior. We discuss important open questions for the design of future technology-mediated behavior change programs.