Online Self-Tracking Groups to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake: A Small-Scale Study on Mechanisms of Group Effect on Behavior Change.
Sommaire de l'article
Web-based interventions with a self-tracking component have been found to be effective in promoting adults' fruit and vegetable consumption. However, these interventions primarily focus on individual- rather than group-based self-tracking. The rise of social media technologies enables sharing and comparing self-tracking records in a group context. Therefore, we developed an online group-based self-tracking program to promote fruit and vegetable consumption.
This study aims to examine (1) the effectiveness of online group-based self-tracking on fruit and vegetable consumption and (2) characteristics of online self-tracking groups that make the group more effective in promoting fruit and vegetable consumption in early young adults.
During a 4-week Web-based experiment, 111 college students self-tracked their fruit and vegetable consumption either individually (ie, the control group) or in an online group characterized by a 2 (demographic similarity: demographically similar vs demographically diverse) × 2 (social modeling: incremental change vs ideal change) experimental design. Each online group consisted of one focal participant and three confederates as group members or peers, who had their demographics and fruit and vegetable consumption manipulated to create the four intervention groups. Self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption were assessed using the Food Frequency Questionnaire at baseline and after the 4-week experiment.
Participants who self-tracked their fruit and vegetable consumption collectively with other group members consumed more fruits and vegetables than participants who self-tracked individually (P=.01). The results did not show significant main effects of demographic similarity (P=.32) or types of social modeling (P=.48) in making self-tracking groups more effective in promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. However, additional analyses revealed the main effect of performance discrepancy (ie, difference in fruit and vegetable consumption between a focal participant and his/her group members during the experiment), such that participants who had a low performance discrepancy from other group members had greater fruit and vegetable consumption than participants who had a high performance discrepancy from other group members (P=.002). A mediation test showed that low performance discrepancy led to greater downward contrast (b=-0.78, 95% CI -2.44 to -0.15), which in turn led to greater fruit and vegetable consumption.
Online self-tracking groups were more effective than self-tracking alone in promoting fruit and vegetable consumption for early young adults. Low performance discrepancy from other group members lead to downward contrast, which in turn increased participants' fruit and vegetable consumption over time. The study highlighted social comparison processes in online groups that allow for sharing personal health information. Lastly, given the small scale of this study, nonsignificant results with small effect sizes might be subject to bias.