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Couch Potatoes

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  • 1. Couch Potatoes A project to get college students off the couch and into the dining hall. Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu
  • 2. Premise
    • Vegetables are an essential part of a balanced meal, but many people don’t eat enough of them.
    • If we increase awareness of what vegetables are available, maybe we can increase the habit of vegetable consumption.
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu
  • 3. The Setup
    • Five residents of Roble Hall were each tagged once a day in Facebook posts listing what vegetables were available in the dining hall.
    • We encouraged participants to reply to the post by listing which vegetables they had eaten that day.
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu
  • 4. Theoretical Justifications
    • Smallest Behavior That Matters – we sought only to increase awareness of vegetable options
    • Social Pressure – Facebook posts come with inherent triggers (emails and notifications), and posters are conscious of their social image
    • Builds On Existing Behavior – subjects are already using Facebook and eating in the dining hall
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu 1 2 3
  • 5. Results
    • Overall, participation was low. Only two of the five participants replied, but those two replied every day. The other three gave these reasons for their lack of participation:
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu “ I saw a few of them, but never remembered to go back to post what I ate. ” “ I was out of town for part of the week and didn’t eat in the dining hall. ” “ I never saw the Facebook updates. ”
  • 6. Results
    • Of the two subjects who replied regularly, the data showed no significant trends. However, this may be attributable in part to the difficulty of measuring increased vegetable eating – we asked for types of vegetables, not quantities. Also, given the short duration of the study, there was little data from which to extrapolate.
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu
  • 7. Results
    • Our exit survey data showed some positive feedback:
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu “ I was excited to be more prepared for meals.” “ I thought more about my food choices in the dining hall, both while I was selecting them and while I was eating them.” “I didn’t know that I ate so much spinach. I noticed [other participant] ate a lot of carrots.”
  • 8. Finding #1 1 A predictor of participation was Facebook usage. The two subjects who used Facebook most frequently were the ones who were active in the study. Those that were not active used Facebook marginally more infrequently. This suggests that the channel is key – perhaps the same concept executed through email or SMS would have fairly different results.
  • 9. Finding #2 2 When hot triggers are absent, there is a gap between online life and ‘real’ life. Subjects who read the daily menus could not act on them until later that day. One person commented that he forgot the relevance of the note by dinnertime. A physical component might help bridge this divide.
  • 10. Finding #3 3 Small behaviors may not always have large impacts on behavior. Anecdotally, subjects stated that even though they were now more aware of the dining hall’s vegetable options, they already had fairly established eating habits.
  • 11. Future Directions
    • More emphasis on social : future iterations should consider incorporating scorekeeping/competition, humor, or more extensive interpersonal communication
    • Hot trigger : this was not as large of a problem as we initially suspected, since the Facebook post was memorable. However, a reminder in the dining hall might foster improved recall and relevance
    • Target a more receptive audience : the next iteration should be done with volunteers who explicitly seek help increasing their vegetable intake
    Jimmy Chen & Alan Viverette, habits.stanford.edu 1 2 3