Please note: All research in progress seminars are off-the-record. Any information about methodology and/or results are embargoed until publication.
Those concerned with America’s rising obesity and chronic disease epidemics advocate increased exercise to counter these trends. Yet, shifting largely sedentary individuals into “long-term exercise habits” is notoriously difficult. Many people are aware that they exercise too little and report that they wish to exercise more, but most fail to achieve this goal. In other contexts where individuals find it difficult to follow through on stated desires and repeatedly underutilize beneficial services, behavioral economic approaches (e.g., commitment contracts to address procrastination; nudges to shift individuals towards optimal choices) have been developed. We describe a large randomized experiment using “nudges” (i.e., changing the default suggested duration of the exercise commit) to shift individuals’ chosen contract duration. The study then followed these individuals over time observing their successes and failures in living up to their exercise commitments. The talk focuses on the analysis of the study and examines what nudges can and cannot do and what they tell us about people’s heterogeneous approaches to exercise.
This study was funded in part by a CADMA seed grant to Dr. Goldhaber-Fiebert. Dr. Garber also receives research support from CADMA. Dr. Goldhaber-Fiebert was also supported by an NIA K01 Career Development Award. In addition to his Stanford affiliation, Dr. Garber is supported partially by the VA.