Health Research and Policy

Research in Progress Seminar (RIP)

Date: October 16, 2013
Time: 4:00 - 5:00 pm
Location: CHP/PCOR Conference Room
117 Encina Commons
Speaker: Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine (Primary Care & Outcomes Research) and, by courtesy, of Health Research and Policy
Title: Do you need to be crazy to exercise?


Our paper explores fundamental questions about habit formation and the role of nudges and other behavioral economic devices. It considers these questions in the health-relevant context of generating exercise habits. The study develops behavioral economic theory and links it outcomes from our large randomized study of exercise commitment contracts and nudges.

We analyze follow-up data on more than 4,000 individuals seeking to make exercise commitments who were randomized to be nudged towards longer (20 weeks) vs. shorter (8 weeks) exercise commitment contracts. We find evidence that the original nudge helped to induce habit formation and the awareness of the need for ongoing commitment in a subgroup of individuals.

We describe a multi-period hyperbolic discounting model of exercise and non-exercise consumption that accounts for nudges. The model includes the ability to form consumption habits - deriving greater utility from subsequent consumption as a function of past consumption. We analytically solve for optimal multi-period consumption paths that are stable from all periods' perspectives and characterize the comparative statics of the model across a range of utility parameters. The analyses yield intriguing predictions about the relationship of exercise patterns and the effects of nudges on consumption and utility as functions of how hyperbolic a discounter a person is. These predictions are broadly consistent with the result of our randomized empirical study and allow us to address the welfare consequences of nudges.

This paper represents joint work with Jay Bhattacharya and Alan Garber and was supported in part by an NIH/NIA career development award to Dr. Goldhaber-Fiebert (K01 AG037593) and by pilot grants from Stanford's Center on Advancing Decision Making in Aging (CADMA) and Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging (CDEHA). Pilot and early stage work have been presented at Stanford's RIP seminar, the Society for Medical Decision Making's annual conference, the health economic seminars at the Universities of Oslo and Bergen, and in NBER working paper #w16624.

Please note: All research in progress seminars are off-the-record. Any information about methodology/press release and/or results are embargoed until publication.
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