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Evaluating mobile apps for breathing training: The effectiveness of visualization
Authors:Chittaro, L., Sioni, R.
Published in:Computers in Human Behavior, 40, November 2014, pp. 56-63.
Abstract:Deep and slow breathing exercises can be an effective adjunct in the treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and depression. Breathing techniques are traditionally learned in courses with trainers and/or with materials such as audio CDs for home practice. Recently, mobile apps have been proposed as novel breathing training tools, but to the best of our knowledge no research has focused on their evaluation so far. In this paper, we study three different designs for breathing training apps. The first employs audio instructions as in traditional training based on audio CDs, while the other two include visualizations of the breathing process, representative of those employed in current breathing training apps. We carry out a thorough analysis, focusing on users’ physiological parameters as well as subjective perception. One visualization produces better results both objectively (measured deepness of breath) and subjectively (users’ preferences and perceived effectiveness) than the more traditional audio-only design. This indicates that a visualization can contribute to the effectiveness of breathing training apps. We discuss which features could have allowed one visualization (but not the other) to obtain better results than traditional audio-only instructions.