Using mobile technology for psychosocial interventions
Mobile phones are a common mode of connecting with people in the digital age. Every day, young Americans on average send and receive 130 text messages and spend over nine hours using their mobile phones. Parents, educators, and social critics worry that at best, this displaces our deepest social connections—and at worst, it promotes bullying, sexting, and privacy abuses. And there is reason for such concerns. Professor Sara Konrath’s research has found recent declines in empathy among young Americans since the late 1970s. Fortunately, research also ¬finds that empathy can be taught and learned. Konrath is currently working with a multidisciplinary group of collaborators to develop theoretically-based mobile interventions to help increase empathy and prosocial behavior—thereby reducing bullying, aggression, and violence. Her mobile program, Text to Connect, sends daily text reminders that encourage users to think about and care for others. The program increases participants’ prosocial motives and behaviors—compared to control messages—with effects lasting up to six months. Konrath is also developing a fun empathy-building app named Random App of Kindness, which provides games based on scientific principles of empathy development. Professor Konrath sees the larger potential of mobile-based interventions in other psychosocial interventions, including those aimed at increasing mental health and well-being. Professor Konrath’s work to create tools to address declining empathy among younger generations is another example of how IUPUI faculty are TRANSLATING RESEARCH INTO PRACTICE.