Commitment lotteries promote physical activity among overweight adults: A cluster randomized trial

K. van der Swaluw*, M.S. Lambooij, J.J.P. Mathijssen, M. Schipper, M. Zeelenberg, S. Berkhout, J.J. Polder, H.M. Prast

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background:
The World Health Organization has identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. People often intend to engage in physical activity on a regular basis, but have trouble doing so. To realize their health goals, people can voluntarily accept deadlines with consequences that restrict undesired future behaviors (i.e., commitment devices).

Purpose:
We examined if lottery-based deadlines that leverage regret aversion would help overweight individuals in attaining their goal of attending their gym twice per week. At each deadline a lottery winner was drawn from all participants.
The winners were only eligible for their prize if they attained their gym-attendance goals. Importantly, nonattending lottery winners were informed about their forgone prize. The promise of this counterfactual feedback was designed to evoke anticipated regret and emphasize the deadlines.

Methods:
Six corporate gyms with a total of 163 overweight participants were randomized to one of three arms. We compared (i) weekly short-term lotteries for 13
weeks; (ii) the same short-term lotteries in combination with an additional long-term lottery after 26 weeks; and (iii) a control arm without lotteries.

Results:
After 13 weeks, participants in the lottery arms attained their attendance goals more often than participants in the control arm. After 26 weeks, we observe a
decline in goal attainment in the short-term lottery arm and the highest goal attainment in the long-term lottery arm.

Conclusions:
With novel applications, the current research adds to a growing body of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of commitment devices in closing the gap between health goals and behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-351
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume52
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • ANTICIPATED REGRET
  • BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS
  • BODY-MASS INDEX
  • Behavior change
  • Behavioral economics
  • Commitment devices
  • Deadlines
  • HABIT FORMATION
  • HEALTH BEHAVIORS
  • Health promotion
  • INCENTIVES
  • METAANALYSIS
  • OBESE
  • Physical activity
  • SELF-CONTROL
  • WEIGHT-LOSS

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