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How to Remind People to Work Out via Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Jin, Liyin and Li, Lingfang (Ivy) and Zhou, Yi and Zhou, Yifang (2022): How to Remind People to Work Out via Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment.

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Physical activity is a very important aspect of individuals’ quality of life. Health and behavioral studies have long sought to induce people to work out and form a habit to exercise. In this study, we design and conduct an 8-week longitudinal field experiment on an ex post feedback mechanism to motivate people to exercise. We designed feedback messages in two dimensions. One dimension varied the feedback messages according to whether they attributed the performance to participants’ own efforts (i.e., effort attribution treatment), and the other dimension adopted different personal pronoun (either the first-person pronoun, i.e., “I message” or the second-person pronoun, i.e.,“You message”) to examine whether the deictic relational framing of the feedback matters (i.e., deictic relational framing treatment). The experiment used an exercising recording applet embedded in WeChat. We find that for the immediate effect, the “You message + effort emphasized” message performed the best. As for the overall effect when feedback is provided, participants in the “I message” and “You message + effort emphasized” treatment groups achieved their weekly exercise goals in about one more week than participants in the control group. But when feedback is no longer provided, the influence of both treatment groups failed to endure; the influence of the “You message + effort emphasized” treatment even reversed. We also find that the effect of feedback is stronger among participants whose subjective ability of self-control and intrinsic motivation to work out are low.

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