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How does anonymous online peer communication affect prevention behavior? Evidence from a laboratory experiment

Saran, Indrani and Fink, Günther and McConnell, Margaret. (2018) How does anonymous online peer communication affect prevention behavior? Evidence from a laboratory experiment. PloS one, 13 (11). e0207679.

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Abstract

While the importance of social networks for health behaviors is well-recognized, relatively little is known regarding the accuracy of anonymous online communication and its impact on health behavior. In 2012, we conducted a laboratory experiment in Boston, Massachusetts with 679 individuals to understand how anonymous online communication affects individual prevention decisions. Participants had to opt for or against investing in prevention over three sessions, each consisting of 15 experimental rounds. In the third session only, participants could share their experiences with a group of 1-3 other anonymous participants after each round. Groups exchanged an average of 16 messages over the 15 rounds of the third session. 70% of messages contained information about the subject's prevention decision and the resulting health outcome. Participants were more likely to communicate when they prevented than when they did not, with prevention failures resulting in the highest probability of sending a message. Nonetheless, receiving an additional message reporting prevention increased the odds a subject would prevent by 32 percent. We find that participants tend to adopt the prevention behavior reported by others, with less weight given to the reported outcomes of prevention, suggesting that social networks may influence behaviors through more than just information provision.
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH)
09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) > Household Economics and Health Systems Research > Household Economy (Fink)
UniBasel Contributors:Fink, Günther
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Language:English
Identification Number:
Last Modified:04 Dec 2018 16:49
Deposited On:04 Dec 2018 16:49

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