Comparing four designs of social comparison feedback to increase physical activity

Opportunity

Physical activity is associated with many health benefits including reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  However, more than 50% of adults in the United States do not achieve enough regular physical activity to obtain these benefits. Many wellness programs and mobile apps use leaderboards to compare progress across individuals and groups of people, but the best way to design these social comparisons is unknown.

Approach

We designed a 6-month randomized controlled trial to test different ways of designing social comparison feedback with financial incentives to increase physical activity. We partnered with the University of Pennsylvania Health System and enrolled 280 employees. All participants used their smartphones to track activity and formed teams of four persons.  Each team was randomly assigned to one of four arms.  Teams received social comparisons to either the 50th percentile (normative feedback) or the 75th percentile (top performers or leaderboard type feedback), and either with or without forgiveness of their two lowest performing days of the week.

Impact

This study is complete and is currently being drafted for publication.

Funding

National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH

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