Testing the effectiveness of public announcement of physical activity goals

The Foundation's initiative, Applying Behavioral Economics to Perplexing Problems in Health and Health care, was designed to: (1) apply the principles and frameworks of behavioral economics to uncover pioneering solutions to persistent and perplexing health and health care problems and (2) discover and test interventions that have breakthrough potential to transform the way health care is delivered and health is promoted and preserved.This grant supports a controlled trial to test the effectiveness of the public announcement of physical-activity goals and of pre-committing to announcing outcomes. Walking can reduce obesity and its co-morbidities, but people find it difficult to stick with walking programs. There is conflicting evidence and theory about the effect of public announcement of such behavior goals: some work argues that it increases goal commitment; other work, that it can be counterproductive. For this study, participants will wear an uploading pedometer and access an online walking program, which will exogenously set daily step-count targets that will automatically adjust on a weekly basis. Each week, subjects will set individual goals by stating the number of days in the next week they will meet their computer-set target. The test will consist of four experimental conditions, in a 2 (goal announcement) x 2 (result announcement) within subject design, with each subject experiencing all four conditions multiple times in different weeks. The research team will post announcements to subjects' Facebook news feeds, visible to people who the subjects designate. Outcome measures will include the number of days committed to in the user-set goals and achievement rates for those goals. Researchers will describe results in papers submitted for publication and for presentation at national and international meetings.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $100,000.00

Awarded on: 4/13/2012

Time frame: 4/15/2012 - 12/31/2013

Grant Number: 69925


University of Michigan School of Information

105 South State Street
Ann Arbor, 48109-1285


Paul Resnick
Project Director


Caroline R. Richardson
Project Director