Promoting Physical Activity Through Prosocial Incentives on Mobile Platforms
38 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 10, 2021
The proliferation of mobile applications provides new opportunities to promote users' physical activity, which is crucial for health and well-being. The prior literature has discussed the effectiveness of designing incentives for physical activity, such as financial and social incentives. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness of the prosocial incentive, another increasingly popular incentive adopted by many platforms. By combining a field experiment of more than 40 million users and observational analysis on a giant social network platform in East Asia, we provide evidence of the effectiveness of prosocial incentives on promoting physical activity. Specifically, by reminding users to engage in an online event named ``step donation'' which associates users' step counts with donation received by charities, our experiment estimates an average increase of 1000 steps for users being encouraged to engage in this event. To supplement the experiment result, we further conduct matching on observational data to compare the effects between prosocial (step donation) and social incentive (another feature named step ranking), finding that the prosocial incentive may even be more effective than the social incentive in our sample. Finally, we discuss plausible prosocial motivations that drive step donation engagement and use a regression discontinuity design to identify users likely driven by warm glow giving. Overall, our study shows the potential of leveraging prosocial incentives to encourage physical activity and sheds light on possible further improvements on the design of prosocial incentives.
Keywords: mobile health, prosocial behavior, step donation
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