A Randomized Trial of Social Comparison Feedback and Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity

Am J Health Promot. 2016 Jul;30(6):416-24. doi: 10.1177/0890117116658195. Epub 2016 Jul 15.


Purpose: To compare the effectiveness of different combinations of social comparison feedback and financial incentives to increase physical activity.

Design: Randomized trial (Clinicaltrials.gov number, NCT02030080).

Setting: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Participants: Two hundred eighty-six adults.

Interventions: Twenty-six weeks of weekly feedback on team performance compared to the 50th percentile (n = 100) or the 75th percentile (n = 64) and 13 weeks of weekly lottery-based financial incentive plus feedback on team performance compared to the 50th percentile (n = 80) or the 75th percentile (n = 44) followed by 13 weeks of only performance feedback.

Measures: Mean proportion of participant-days achieving the 7000-step goal during the 13-week intervention.

Analysis: Generalized linear mixed models adjusting for repeated measures and clustering by team.

Results: Compared to the 75th percentile without incentives during the intervention period, the mean proportion achieving the 7000-step goal was significantly greater for the 50th percentile with incentives group (0.45 vs 0.27, difference: 0.18, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.04 to 0.32; P = .012) but not for the 75th percentile with incentives group (0.38 vs 0.27, difference: 0.11, 95% CI: -0.05 to 0.27; P = .19) or the 50th percentile without incentives group (0.30 vs 0.27, difference: 0.03, 95% CI: -0.10 to 0.16; P = .67).

Conclusion: Social comparison to the 50th percentile with financial incentives was most effective for increasing physical activity.

Keywords: behavioral economics; connected health; financial incentives; performance feedback; physical activity; social comparison; teams.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Philadelphia
  • Social Behavior*
  • Walking

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02030080