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Liz Foote Maui May 28, 2020

Did anyone see, or participate in, the #StandAgainstCorona online pledge? So far over 2700 people have taken the pledge. It was actually created as an field experiment to test different pro-social messaging strategies, and those who are behind it ("a Global Taskforce of Volunteer Behavioral Scientists, Marketing Specialists and Health Experts") have shared the results

They used different framing approaches, with the control saying "I pledge to," a self-benefitting version saying "To protect myself, I pledge to...", an others-benefitting version saying "To protect my loved ones, I pledge to...", and a combination version saying "To protect myself and my loved ones, I pledge to...", and tested the results in terms of sign-ups ot the pledge. They ran the experiment for 2.5 weeks using Google Optimize (an A/B testing platform). 

They found a statistically significant reduction in pledge rates in the self-preservation condition compared to the control group, but did not find any significant differences between the “loved ones” condition and control, nor between “combo” and control.

Here are their recommendations based on these findings: "Our results suggest that, in the context of an online pledge, direct headline messages appealing to participants' own benefit and self-preservation may be less effective than no persuasive appeal at all. It is possible that a self-benefitting message frame may be perceived as “selfish” and therefore is actually dissuasive rather than persuasive. In contrast with findings from other experiments, we did not find any evidence that a headline message emphasizing the protection to loved ones was significantly different from control. While this study involved collaboration among behavioral scientists, it has not been peer-reviewed in a formal academic process, and hence its findings should be interpreted with caution. That said, our results suggest that messages emphasizing direct benefits to the recipient may be ineffective and even counterproductive in the context of encouraging committing to prosocial behavior online."

I was really interested in the results as I remember seeing the pledge posted on Twitter and I immediately took it, then saw someone involved in the study saying how it was being A/B tested, so I was watching for the results. It's really great they shared them so soon! Honestly I don't even remember which version I was presented with, I don't think any messaging was going to dissuade me from signing that thing in the first place. The team did note in their write-up that the participants were self-selecting and probably already had a higher intent to sign the pledge - that was definitely me! Has anyone seen other similar studies out there?