Harnessing group dynamics to boost individual motivation to exercise

Research has shown that people will work harder with a partner in a taxing physical task than when working alone. However, live physical activity partners are not always the most helpful — people often become discouraged if their partner consistently out performs them, or bored if their partner struggles to keep pace. Can "virtual partners" matched to a person's individual abilities provide a solution to this dilemma? To help answer this question, more than 900 participants took part in a study that matched an experimental group with virtual partners using the Eye Toy camera and a modified PlayStation 2 game. Participants, who viewed themselves on a large screen with the Eye Toy technology, worked out while their virtual partners performed the same activities next to them. A research team from Michigan State University analyzed and adapted the characteristics of the virtual partner — including body composition, gender and age — to see which were most effective at improving endurance and exercise time.

This project was funded as part of Health Games Research, a national program of the Pioneer Portfolio dedicated to funding and supporting research to advance the effectiveness of interactive games for health.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $149,927.00

Awarded on: 8/17/2009

Time frame: 9/1/2009 - 8/31/2011

Grant Number: 66718


Michigan State University

301 Administration Building
East Lansing, 48824-1046


Deborah L. Feltz
Project Director