Understanding the Adoption of Fitness Applications in China

A Social Perspective on Motivation

Master's Thesis, 2019
72 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 Background: Fitness in China - a Snapshot of Current Developments
1.2 Research Questions
1.3 Significance of the Study
1.3 Schematic Outline of the Thesis

2. Literature Review - Theoretical Background
2.1 Definitions: Fitness and Fitness applications
2.2 Theory behind the Willingness to Adopt (WTA) a Fitness App
2.3 Related Theories
2.3.1 Need N
2.3.2 Social Status SS
2.3.3 Social Influence SIN
2.3.4 Social Impact SIM
2.4 Justification of Theories

3. Modeling the Fitness App Adoption
3.1 Social Variables of Motivation
3.2 Research Model and Hypotheses Development
3.3 Questionnaire Design and Data Collection

4. Results
4.1 Model-free explanations
4.2 Model explanations

5. Discussion and Conclusion





Understanding the adoption of fitness applications is a complex process as it is closely linked with people’s health behaviors and under the influence of manifold of influential forces. This research is focusing on the social perspective on motivation while not neglecting an adoption driven by the need that is concentrated on the mere functionality of an app.

The main objective of the research is to discover the underlying social motivation and propensity of users to adopt fitness applications in China. The central question is whether the willingness to adopt a fitness app is being influenced solely by the need to track one’s activities with the help of a tool or if social motivation is playing an essential role in influencing a person’s inclination to adopt this kind of applications.

The problem this thesis is trying to understand better is the propensity of people in the initial adoption phase of a fitness application. So, it can be said that the scope of the study is narrowing down the general idea of health to the specific scenario of fitness applications. The main idea and assumption is that social motivation in the adoption of fitness apps is playing the essential role and has to be given great consideration by marketers and businesses. The findings can be adapted to business practices and marketing efforts.

The 532 answers gathered in the survey have been looked at from an approach that stays close to the theories leveraged in the development of the variables as well as a model-approach that constructed the possible relationship between the variables.

The variables constructed are based on the theories of the lazy user (Need N), social status (SS), social influence (SIN) as well as social impact (SIM). Need N is trying to minimize efforts in an adoption process in order to gain the required functions of an application. Following social status (SS) as a motivator, a person is intrinsically motivated to pursue a goal-directed behavior, in this case, the adoption of a fitness application, in order to adjust, maintain or obtain a perceived social status by others. On the other hand, social influence (SIN) focuses on the external influential stimulus that is being exerted on the individual and can be separated into the two modes of identification and internalization. Social Impact (SIM) is also looking at the extrinsic social motivation but from another perspective than social influence. It provides us with a meta-framework to measure all influential forces in the outside field within a person’s social radius. Social Impact consists of the strength, immediacy, and number of an influencer.

All variables are based on an in-depth understanding of the available research that has been comprehensively analyzed in the literature review section of the thesis. Furthermore, a full understanding of what health and fitness are from an academic point of view as well as how fitness applications can be classified and are present in the Chinese market has been gained in that section.

In the model, the dependent variable is the willingness to adopt a fitness application. This variable is dependent on either the mere need for a tool that is helping people to work out or social motivation. Social motivation is constructed from an internal and external perspective and is being called the social status model. Social status in the model is being dependent on social influence and social impact. The hypotheses of the research are the following:

1) Social Influence SIN is correlated with Social Status.
2) Social Impact SIM is correlated with Social Status.
3) More social motivation is leading to more willingness to adopt.
4) More Need N is leading to more willingness to adopt.

The results of the survey have been looked at from the two different perspectives described above: a model-free approach that is staying close to the theories as well as the model results based on the regression.

The relationships between variables postulated in hypothesis 1, 2 and 3 have been proven to be significant, only H4 had to be rejected. This means need plays a rather insignificant role in the adoption of fitness applications.

Based on the results, concluding managerial implications have been drawn.

The results also raise the question if the health approach as it is constituted nowadays in China is of sustainable nature or if it is solely focused on a superficial understanding as the results would suggest.

KEY WORDS: willingness to adopt fitness apps, social status, social impact, social influence, social motivation, need

1. Introduction

1.1 Background: Fitness in China - a Snapshot of Current Developments

Fang huan yu wei ran

“Prevention is better than cure ” - Chinese proverb.

A continuously rising number of gyms and healthy food options in China’s megacities illustrates a growing interest in healthy living. The sports and fitness industry as a whole is projected to reach $786 billion in 2025 and reflects this trend in numbers (Liu). China’s urban population is now embracing a more active and healthier lifestyle and moves its spending from consumer products and luxury towards the fitness industry. Furthermore, the sports industry is backed by national plans of the central government like the “National Fitness Plan” that has been approved by China’s State Council for 2016-2020 and is designed to increase the population’s fitness. Another plan even on a bigger scope is “Healthy China 2030” and has ambitious targets for national fitness levels. It is intended to establish multiple stimuli to increase sports participation among the population such as making 530 million people regularly take part in physical exercise or educating 30% of the population about health consciousness (Liu). During the National Health Conference held in August 2016, President Xi Jinping said that health represents a prerequisite for people’s all-around development and is a precondition for developments in the social as well as the economic sector (“Healthy China 2030”). This blueprint for health represents the first ever long-term strategic plan that has been developed in China on a national level since its founding in 1949. Considering China’s growing affluent and middle class and a huge push from the government, there are no signs that the growth of the industry will slow down anytime soon - so it is worth looking at it and trying to understand it better.

With the triumph of smartphones as everyone’s daily companion, the worldwide fitness culture also has found implementation on these devices and has forever changed the way people workout. According to the Digital Market Outlook by Statista, there are globally 723.6 million users in the fitness app segment, and the numbers are expected to grow up to 0.925 billion by 2023. With a market volume of US$5,730m in 2018, the most revenue worldwide in the fitness segment is generated in China - almost double the revenue generated in the United States (US$3,476). Globally, revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2018-2023) of 5.1%, which is projected to result in a market volume of US$20,098m by 2023 (“Digital Market Outlook”).

As we can see from the figure below, the revenue of the fitness app market in 2016 was for the first time more than US$1 billion and around half of it was generated by fitness apps. In only four years later in 2020, the market is expected to have doubled and generate more than US$2 billion. The growing revenue reflects the rapid increase the Chinese fitness app is experiencing at this very moment and depicts a market environment vibrant with startups and investors.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig.1: Revenue in China’s Fitness Market

China’s number one fitness application “Keep” reported in August 2017 that it had reached 100 million users in China, in comparison to 23 million from the US and 20 million in Europe1. The app “Keep” can be identified as a multifunctional fitness app that allows its users to create custom workout programs that can be finished anytime and anywhere while connecting to friends to share and comment the progress and single workouts. Over 23 percent of “Keep”-users are living in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou or Chengdu and 77 percent of all users are under the age of 35 (“About Us - Keep”). This illustrates that the Chinese fitness movement is gathered in the most significant and higher-tier cities of the country and is very popular among the younger generation.

The figure below shows the top apps that are available on the iOS store in China under the category of health and fitness on March 11, 2019. According to forecasts, the number of fitness applications will continue its steady increase into 2021and beyond ("The Mobile Fitness App Market In China").

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 2: Top apps on iOS-Store, China, March 11, 2019, Category: “Health and Fitness ”.

Fitness applications like “Keep” (number 1 “free” and “grossing” app in figure 2) are dealing with strong local and global competitors like Nike+, Daily Yoga or freeletics that are all eager to gain a large share of this extensively growing industry. Therefore, it is extremely crucial for companies to gain a deep understanding of their users’ motivational processes that lead them to initially adopt a certain application and the underlying considerations behind this action. This insight can be of high significance for marketers as in how to address their target audience and create precise methods in approaching prospective users. According to the study “HealthyTogether: Exploring Social Incentives for Mobile Fitness Applications”, the social factor seems to matter a lot in retaining users and while people are interacting with applications. The interest of this paper is to see if the concept of social motivation is transferable and if and how it matters in the initial phase of consideration, decision and adoption of a fitness application. Considering the enormous rise of the industry in China, it is inevitable for scholars to do consumer-centered research in the local market in order to create valuable insights for the real business world.

Additionally, an understanding of the underlying social reasoning in the adoption of fitness apps also contributes to the comprehension of the general approach to the health of the population. This can disclose concealed potential superficial tendencies and give guidance on how to advance a more holistic health approach detached from superficiality.

1.2 Research Questions

The main objective of the research is to discover the underlying social motivation and propensity of users to adopt fitness applications in China. The central question is whether the willingness to adopt a fitness app is being influenced solely by the need to track one’s activities with the help of a tool or if social motivation is playing an essential role in influencing a person’s inclination to adopt this kind of applications.

This is to gain valuable insights and managerial implications that can be applied to the industry practice, e.g. in the form of customized marketing. A deeper understanding about the social reasoning behind the initial adoption of fitness applications will provide companies working in the field of mobile app development with the knowledge they can leverage to adjust and fine-tune their approach to business, which gives the thesis not only theoretical but also practical value. If social motivation turns out to be of as highly significant as hypothesized, these insights can be applied to create a distinct kind of marketing that focuses on social campaigns and other social marketing tools, rather than driving product-oriented marketing that emphasizes the fulfillment of wants and needs of customers by functions.

The central research question therefore is to reveal how social motivation, that is conceived with the theories of social status, social influence and social impact, is influencing the willingness to adopt a fitness app and how external need, which is defined as the need to have assistance in physical activities, is being influential or not. The mentioned three constructs of social status, social influence and social impact are based on three distinct theories of social motivation theory and will be discussed under chapter 2, the literature review.

To answer the research questions a representative survey sample of 532 individual respondents has been gathered and analyzed from two perspectives to gain the most out of the gathered data: A model-free approach that stays close to the used theories and reflects a more direct analysis of the survey answers as well as a model- approach have been followed. The latter is to reveal the correlations between the factors of social motivation (social status SS, social influence SIN and social impact SIM), the need for a fitness app N and the willingness to adopt WTA a fitness application.

1.3 Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will redound to the benefit of the society considering that health and fitness play an essential role in the lives of individuals and society as a whole. Considering the controversy of the 996 working-style2 that has become prevalent in many companies throughout China and its connected health implications shows that studying fitness and health of people is a critical topic (“996.ICU”).

On a societal level, social status has been proven to be highly significant for the willingness to adopt which illustrates the study’s contribution on a societal level in questioning the current superficial image of health. Moreover, the study leads to questioning how the adoption of fitness applications can actually contribute to a holistic view.

Theoretically, I find that social motivation is the essential driver to adopt fitness applications. This contributes to the importance of social motivation theories in research and their application to the actual business world as well as behavioral studies. The unique point in time of the adoption process that the research was zooming into was the consideration phase prior to adoption. This has not been researched in a quantitatively prior to this study, which contributes to the academic work’s significance. Previous studies have been focusing on the fitness enthusiasts of China and have found out the primary reasons to use sports apps are recording exercise data followed by sharing or posting on social media ("China: Major Reasons To Use Sports Apps Among Fitness Enthusiasts"). By opening up the scope to the mass consumer, the significance of these two reasons will be assessed in the model of this study and leads to deeper insights into the customers’ behavior.

Practically, the study can help the fitness app developers and businesses to tailor the marketing strategy regarding the segmentation proposed in the study by emphasizing the importance of the segment of people with a job, in comparison to students and other non-workers. As social impact has proven to be particularly significant, leveraging big-scale sports events should become a stronger focus of the marketing efforts made by app developers. In summary, social motivation has been proven to be the critical lever in breaking the chasms of the diffusion process and win over the market.

1.4 Schematic Outline of the Thesis

Chapter 2 consists of an in-depth literature review that has been conducted to understand the important concepts that have been utilized in this thesis and construct the fundamental theoretical framework. First, fitness and fitness applications in China will be defined. Then the willingness to adoption (WTA) will be in focus to understand how people are adopting new technologies like phone applications and initiate their usage. Next, the theoretical background of the variables of need N and the three social motivational theories social status SS, social influence SIN and social impact SIM will be dissected.

The knowledge gained from the literature review flowed into the construction of the research model and the development of the set of hypotheses, which will be discussed in detail under Chapter 3. This chapter also shows how the research is being approached and strategized. Additionally, details about how the survey that serves as the methodical tool of this research has been formulated. Subsequently, I will touch upon how the data of this study has been gathered.

In Chapter 4, the results of the collected data are being studied from the two aforementioned perspectives: Firstly, I will stay close to the theories and analyze the data alongside the three different theories of social motivation and carve out the in­depth observation that has been gained for each of the theories. Secondly, I will analyze the data with the help of the designed model-approach to study the existing correlations between the proposed variables.

Chapter 5 is discussing the data results and is putting them into the perspective of theoretical as well as practical implications. At the same time, Chapter 5 will give further recommendations of how the results of this research can be valuable in business practice, especially on how app developers should approach the marketing side of it. Finally, a conclusion will give an outlook on the topic of fitness, social motivation and integrate it into a broader view on health.

2. Literature Review - Theoretical Framework

The main goal of this chapter of the paper is to lay a solid foundation and guarantee a better understanding of the research in the field.

The logic of this chapter is following the title of the paper “Understanding the Adoption of Fitness Applications in China - A Social Perspective on Motivation”: Chapter 2.1 seeks understanding of fitness, the fitness application itself and will analyze the marketplace of fitness apps in China.

Chapter 2.2 will focus on the adoption process of new technology, that can be applied to mobile applications and the variable of willingness to adopt (WTA) in the study.

The following Chapter 2.3 concentrates on the related theories that are the lazy user model constructing need N as well as the social motivation theories social status SS, social influence SIN, and social impact SIM.

The theories that lay the groundwork for establishing operational as well as differentiated variables subsequently can be tested in the survey, are being justified in Chapter 2.4 to complete this review chapter.

2.1 Definitions: Fitness and the Fitness Applications

As this research is concentrated on fitness applications in China that are being adopted, it is essential to first define what physical fitness means from a scientific point of view. Second, we have to understand what is being meant by a fitness application and how these apps can be classified. Third, we will look at China to see what fitness applications in this specific country are constituting the marketplace and give a snapshot of the industry as it presents itself from a 2019 perspective.


Physical fitness can be described as a state of health and well-being as well as the capability to perform in sports, vocations and daily activities. Generally, the state of physical fitness can be achieved by combining appropriate nutrition (Tremblay et al.) with a moderate to vigorous exercise regime and adequate rest time (Malina). Mental, social and emotional health are also mentioned in many sources as being important parts of overall fitness (“Participation In Sport And Physical Recreation”). Being mentioned in many textbooks and popular resources as well as being frequently applied in health education classes of middle schools in the United States is the so-called health triangle. It consists of three interconnected points of physical, mental and emotional as well as social fitness.3

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 3: The Health Triangle

Furthermore, physical fitness is preventing and improving many chronic health conditions and “has been shown to reduce the morbidity and mortality from many chronic diseases” (“Physical Activity Fundamental To Preventing Disease”). These chronic conditions are often the effect of an unhealthy lifestyle and aging and physical fitness has the ability to counter some of the effects. Based on the different components of fitness, mobile phone applications are built to serve their users to achieve fitness goals and can be classified in the following way.

Fitness App Typology

In general, a fitness app is an application that can be found and downloaded from an app store of any mobile device and used anywhere to get fit.

Essentially, three different types of fitness apps can be categorized: workout and exercise apps, nutrition and diet apps and fitness tracking apps. According to a study conducted by Flurry Analytics4, workout and weight loss apps still account for 73% of all health and fitness app sessions (Kesiraju and Vogels). This type of application offers to its users the convenience to workout whenever and wherever and nowadays many apps sync with fitness trackers, like the ones by Fitbit, Xiaomi, Garmin and Huawei. These trackers are leveraging health- and activity-related data to offer personalized suggestions through applications. Many workout and exercise apps offer personalized content that is similar to personal training in its quality next to ready-made workout plans and classes, which are usually categorized by type.

Fitness trackers are an essential component of the wearables market, a market that registered 172 million devices shipped in total in 2018 (Pressman). The top wearable companies 2018 by shipment volume, market share, and year-on-year growth are Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei. Applications that belong to the group of fitness tracking apps are collecting data about a user’s activities from merely counting steps, like in WeChat’s WeRun, up to incorporating fitness metrics like heart rate patterns that are being collected with the help of wearable devices. Lastly, apps belonging to the category diet and nutrition apps help users to track calories and water intake. These apps help users in reaching certain health and fitness goals and are very popular among the fitness crowd: The most popular app MyFitnessPal recorded in May 201819.1 million monthly active users (MAU), who are determining their optimal nutrients intake and are motivated by gamification elements (“Health & Fitness App MAU 2018”).

The above described three types of common fitness applications can be seen as innovative and contemporary tools for health promotion that can serve as a “countercurrent of increasing globalization, urbanization, industrialization, and inequalities that deter us from fulfilling the promise of advances in medicine and health promotion” (Glanz et. al). Accompanying the growth of new communication and information technologies, electronic media like phone applications for interactive health communication are able to connect individuals and promote health (Glanz et. al). Common fitness application in China 2019

As the mobile world and especially the world of applications for mobile phones is underlying a constant and rapid pace of change, it is almost impossible to define key players unless it is in the form of a snapshot at a particular time.

The following list serves as an overview to gain an understanding what kind of applications are among the most popular these days and have been notable in the market in recent years. It does not claim to be complete, as the field of tech and applications in China is under constant change and could be disrupted by a yet unknown player in a concise time.

According to a report published on China Internet Watch, the Chinese spent 31% more time on sports & fitness mobile apps in 2018 compared to the previous year, which shows the market is profoundly on the rise (CIW Team). A user usually uses a sport and fitness application around three times per day and is spending 20 minutes on it every single use. Apparently, the applications were most appealing to people from top-tier cities and Chinese with mid-level to high purchasing power - but as fitness and sport is on the upswing for the country as a whole, the sample of the study will not be limited to only top-tier places but at best is trying to capture a comprehensive picture of the Chinese consumer.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Common Chinese Fitness Applications 2019

2.2 Theory behind the Willingness to Adopt (WTA) a fitness application In order to understand how people are adopting a new technology, which can be applied to novel software and applications on the market, the prominent theory of technology diffusion is going to be examined under this section. The theory forms the basis in constructing the variable of willingness to adopt (WTA).

The Adoption of Technology

The theory of technology diffusion can help us understand how diffusion of innovations, which can be defined as a new idea, product, technology, service or method, works. Diffusion, as defined by Robertson and Jacobson, is the “spread of knowledge from an original source or sources to one or more recipients”, thus it closes “the gap between what people do not know and what they can effectively put to use” (Sadhu). The reason why this is important is that there is no value of knowledge until it is used productively - the more widely a particular bit of knowledge can be used, the greater its value becomes (Robertson and Patel). For organizations and practitioners, defining diffusion is not the actual problem, as it is rather straight-forward, but achieving to accomplish it reflects for any innovative product or service the actual difficult part of the process. For innovative organizations, the movement of an idea into actualization and application “is a critical process” (Sadhu); thus companies have to make special efforts to prevent an idea from dying at an early stage and pass successfully through this interface. The following graphic can describe the innovative adoption lifecycle, also widely known in the digital marketing world as Roger’s bell curve. The American communication theorist and sociologist Everett M. “Ev” Rogers was originating the diffusion of innovations theory and also developed the term of the early adopters, which can be seen in figure 1.

For marketers, the crucial part is to transition from one group to the next, and the most challenging part is the shift from early adopters (visionaries) to an early majority (pragmatists). This has been referred to as a chasm that needs to be crossed and is determining if a product or technology dies, remains niche or becomes ubiquitous in the market if successfully overcome (Moore). Roger’s research linked all the different stages with personality traits that help us organize people in the ways they approach new innovations.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to Sadhu, there are several perspectives that can be taken on regarding technology diffusion:

- Traditional perspective

The traditional perspective is focusing on the marketing side of diffusion.

- Adoption Perspective

The adoption perspective is used to describe the diffusion process.

- Technological Perspective

The technological perspective is looking at technical skills and tools to implement innovations.

- Infrastructure Perspective

The infrastructure perspective is considering infrastructure aspects including transportation, availability of energy, and communication.

- Regulatory/ Societal Perspective

The regulatory/societal perspective looks at the effects of government policies, regulatory requirements, and bureaucratic processes.

The theory of technology diffusion can be focused on various aspects in trying to establish an innovation for the masses. As this research is focusing on the underlying motivation and propensity of individuals for adopting the behavior of using a fitness application in China, the perspective that has been taken on combines the traditional and adoption perspective of Sadhu.

The figure below schematically illustrates how the adoption process is working. It is based on the word-of-mouth model of technology diffusion as well as the mixed information source model and shows the fundamental relationship between the different elements in the adoption process (Vitanov and Ausloos).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 5: The Adoption Process

As the graphic suggests, there exist influences that affect the adoption cycle. In this research, the influence arrow will be regarded as the trigger that leads to the willingness to adopt a fitness app, which either can be the imminent need of a user or social motivation.

The key constructs that lead to an adoption used in the technology diffusion theory are a relative advantage, the ease of use, image, visibility, compatibility, results demonstrability and the voluntariness of use (Moore and Benbasat).

Willingness to Adopt (WTA)

The term and variable of willingness to adopt (WTA) as being used in this study is referring to the actual usage of an application or the behavioral intention to use an app. This concept has been previously mentioned in the technology acceptance model by Davis et al. and describes the two stages at the acceptance stage of the model (Davis et al.).

Another consumer behavior model that is describing in which stage the user is when willingness to adopt (WTA) arises is the DAGMAR marketing model. DAGMAR is the abbreviation for “Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results” and proposes a prospect goes through the stages of awareness, comprehension, and conviction before taking action (Dutka, and Colley). Using the words of Dutka and Colley, willingness to adopt (WTA) can be defined as the conviction to use a fitness application to the actual usage after a download, which represents action in their proposed model.

2.3 Related Theories

2.3.1 Need N

The lazy user model (LUM) suggests that the solution selection by individuals to fulfill their needs follows the path of least resistance; thus, users are selecting the solution that demands the least effort from their side (Tetard and Collan). A solution can be defined as a product or service and can be applicable to fitness applications.

The model is based on earlier theories describing the human tendency of information or solution seeking like by Chao and Zipf. Zipf s principle of least effort has been applied to minimization and optimization processes in the evolution and scaling of human language (Ferrer i Cancho, and Sole).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 6: The Lazy User Model (LUM)

The user needs that individuals are trying to have fulfilled is “an explicitly specifiable want that can be completely fulfilled” (Tetard and Collan) and can be tangible or intangible. Effort can be defined as the time being used, money spent, energy used (i.e. physical work and mental work) or a combination of these in the adoption.

A user’s choice of a possible solution is further limited by the particular user state, he finds himself in. This user state is expressed in demographic specifics, e.g. age, income, wealth, location, etc., or anything else that defines the state of the user in finding an optimal solution.

A similar approach can be found in the technology acceptance model: A person believes that the usage of a particular solution can enhance his or her performance, which is referred to as the perceived usefulness. This concept as well as the perceived ease-of-use which is "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort" (Davis) is influencing the choice of an individual, thus, his or her willingness to adopt.

The construct of need N used in this study is following the logic of the theories above and represents an adoption based on needs that is trying to minimize all efforts in connection with that adoption.

2.3.2 Social Status Theory

Social status is being defined as the respect, admiration, competence, and deference that is being given or granted to people, groups or organizations in societies by others. At the core of the theory, status is about whom members of a society consider holding more social value (Sedikides, and Guinote). What is perceived by people as a person of high instrumental social value (social perception) is much more significant than if the person actually has this value. An important part of the concept is that this deference is of voluntary nature and unaccompanied by threat or coercion (Anderson et al.). The beliefs over who is socially more and less valuable are largely shared among the members of a society and are for example determined by honor and respect. In this way, a society builds hierarchies for distribution of resources and power, that will “appear natural and fair” (Ridgeway and Correll) to everyone and all of the members of that social group.

These systems of social stratification or hierarchies are universal across human societies and equip members of the higher rungs with valuable benefits like resources, influence, social approval, better health and freedom (Anderson et al.). Thus, it can be said that status concerns are universal across all cultures - and can be clearly distinguished from the need to belong in people. Anderson, Hildreth and Howland identified in their extensive review of research they have done in the field the following main findings that are crucial and defining for social status as being a fundamental human motive:

- Psychological adjustments and well-being

People’s level of status is affecting their psychological adjustments and well-being. The long-term consequences of an individual’s status can be seen in subjective well-being, self-esteem as well as mental and physical health.

- Goal-directed behaviors

People try to attain or maintain high status with the help of attaining goal-directed behaviors. This describes all mechanisms that are recruited in pursuit of higher status. These mechanisms range from attentive monitoring of status, goal-directed behavior to selected preferences in groups, relationships, and organizations. The latter can be observed in people’s preference for social environments that afford them a higher status, i.e., being regarded as respected, prestigious or honorable. Confronted with a threat to their status, people tend to respond with intense emotional reactions.

- Universality

Furthermore, the desire for status is not derivative of the need to belong and appears across all differences in culture, age and personality universally.

2.3.3 Social Influence - SIN

The social influence theory is investigating in how far attitude changes triggered by social influences are reflected in subsequent actions and reactions to events (Kelman). Social influence theory describes two psychological human needs that lead to conformity: informational social influence and normative social influence (Deutsch, and Gerard). Informational social influence is defined as the need to be right, whereas normative social influence is the need to be liked. The former is describing the concept of social proof, which is an acceptance of influence because of evidence in reality. The latter is describing the conforming to other people’s expectations (Deutsch, and Gerard).

Social conformity and attitude change from social influence are in the focus of the classical study done by Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman, published in 1958 in the Journal of Conflict Resolution under the name Compliance, Identification, and Internalization: Three Processes of Attitude Change.

The three different motivational processes that are being described in the study lay the framework for the social variable of social influence. Identification, as well as internalization, have been identified as being applicable to this study and form the crucial components of the social influence SIN variable in the model approach.

- Compliance

Compliance takes place when “an individual accepts influence because he hopes to achieve a favorable reaction from another person or group” (Kelman). The belief in the content of the adopted behavior that takes place is secondary because the focus is on conforming: This can be identified as specific rewards or approval by the counterpart and to avoid specific punishments or disapproval. A person acting from this variety of social motivation and accepting another person’s influence is driven by satisfaction due to a social effect. Also, induced responses will only be performed by individuals under the conditions of surveillance by the influencing agent. The relationship factor in this mode of social influence is insignificant.

- Identification

What Kelman means with identification occurs when “an individual accepts influence because he wants to establish or maintain a satisfying self-defining relationship to another person or group” (Kelman). Thereby, the induced behavior is mainly adapted, because it is associated with the desired relationship. The specific content is irrelevant, but the individual believes in the adopted response, which is contrary to compliance, due to factors like the attractiveness of the influencer. The satisfaction of the individual in identification is derived from the act of conforming as such. The induced response is only performed under the conditions of the salience of the relationship to the agent.5

- Internalization

Internalization as the third mode of social influence is occurring “when an individual accepts influence because the content of the induced behavior - the ideas and actions of which it is composed - is intrinsically rewarding” (Kelman). The main difference in quality to the other two modes of social influence is that the induced behavior is adopted because it is in congruence with the value system of the respective person, this will be integrated in this fashion. Regardless of surveillance and salience, a person with an induced behavioral response through internalization is going to perform the influenced behavior under the condition of the relevance of the issue at hand.

Kelman defines the probability of accepting influence as a combined function of:

a) The nature and relative importance of the anticipated effect
b) The source of the influencing agent’s relative power

The agent’s power is defined as being “instrumental to the achievement of the subject’s goals” (Kelman).


1 The numbers have been revisited on March 9, 2019, but no new numbers have been reported. By now, “Keep” definitely should be able to report a higher number of users.

2 996 means working from 9am to 9pm for six days a week and is the default work schedule for many ambitious companies in China.

3 Other Researchers like Dr. Sally Nutter have applied the health triangle to nutrition-focused research.

4 According to Flurry Analytics, the company tracks over 1,000,000 apps across all app categories, providing insights into 2.1 billion devices. The current trends in health & fitness categories are combining iOS and Android data.

5 This mode of social influence is similar to what Robert Cialdini describes as “weapons of influence” in his famous book “Influence: Science and Practice”. Social Proof, Authority and Liking all describe factors of influence that are linked to relationship - which highlights the factual importance of relationships in human societies.

Excerpt out of 72 pages


Understanding the Adoption of Fitness Applications in China
A Social Perspective on Motivation
Shanghai Jiao Tong University  (Antai College)
Master of International Business
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Earned the award of excellent MIB thesis honor.
social motivation fitness application
Quote paper
Immanuel Nama (Author), 2019, Understanding the Adoption of Fitness Applications in China, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/494242


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Understanding the Adoption of Fitness Applications in China

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free