University of Oulu

Halttu K, Oinas-Kukkonen H. Need for Cognition Among Users of Self-Monitoring Systems for Physical Activity: Survey Study. JMIR Form Res 2021;5(10):e23968 URL: DOI: 10.2196/23968

Need for cognition among users of self-monitoring systems for physical activity : survey study

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Author: Halttu, Kirsi1; Oinas-Kukkonen, Harri1
Organizations: 1Oulu Advanced Research on Service and Information Systems Research Unit, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: JMIR Publications, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-11-22


Background: Need for cognition (NFC) is among the most studied personality traits in psychology. Despite its apparent relevance for engaging with technology and the use of information, it has not been studied in the context of self-monitoring systems and wearables for health. This study is the first to explore the relationship between NFC and commercial self-monitoring systems among healthy users.

Objective: This study aims to explore the effect of NFC levels on the selection of self-monitoring systems and evaluation of system features of self-monitoring and feedback, as well as perceived credibility and perceived persuasiveness. We also assessed perceived behavior change in the form of self-reported activity after adopting the system.

Methods: Survey data were collected in October 2019 among university students and personnel. The invitation to respond to the questionnaire was addressed to those who had used a digital system to monitor their physical activity for at least two months. The web-based questionnaire comprised the following 3 parts: details of system use, partially randomly ordered theoretical measurement items, and user demographics. The data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. The effect of NFC was assessed both as 3 groups (low, moderate, and high) and as a continuous moderator variable.

Results: In all, 238 valid responses to the questionnaire were obtained. Individuals with high NFC reported all tested system features with statistically significantly higher scores. The NFC also had some effect on system selection. Hypothesized relationships with perceived credibility gained support in a different way for individuals with low and high NFC; for those with low NFC, credibility increased the persuasiveness of the system, but this effect was absent among individuals with high NFC. For users with high NFC, credibility was related to feedback and self-monitoring and perhaps continuously evaluated during prolonged use instead of being a static system property. Furthermore, the relationship between perceived persuasiveness and self-reported activity after adopting the system had a large effect size (Cohen f²=0.355) for individuals with high NFC, a small effect size for individuals with moderate NFC (Cohen f²=0.107), and a nonsignificant path (P=.16) for those with low NFC. We also detected a moderating effect of NFC in two paths on perceived persuasiveness but only among women. Our research model explained 59.2%, 63.9%, and 47.3% of the variance in perceived persuasiveness of the system among individuals with low, moderate, and high NFC, respectively.

Conclusions: The system choices of individuals seem to reflect their intrinsic motivations to engage with rich data, and commercial systems might themselves be a tailoring strategy. Important characteristics of the system, such as perceived credibility, have different roles depending on the NFC levels. Our data demonstrate that NFC as a trait that differentiates information processing has several implications for the selection, design, and tailoring of self-monitoring systems.

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Series: JMIR formative research
ISSN: 2561-326X
ISSN-E: 2561-326X
ISSN-L: 2561-326X
Volume: 5
Issue: 10
Article number: e23968
DOI: 10.2196/23968
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Copyright information: © Kirsi Halttu, Harri Oinas-Kukkonen. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research (, 14.10.2021. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.