Network interventions for changing physical activity behaviour in preadolescents

Antonios Proestakis, Eugenia Polizzi di Sorrentino, Helen Elizabeth Brown, Esther van Sluijs, Ankur Mani, Sandra Caldeira, Benedikt Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Network interventions can help to achieve behavioural change by inducing peer-pressure in the network. However, inducing peer-pressure without considering the structure of the existing social network may render the intervention ineffective or weaker. In a seven-week school-based field experiment using preadolescents’ physical activity as a proxy for estimating behavioural change, we test the hypothesis that boys’ and girls’ distinct networks are susceptible to different social incentives. We run three different social-rewards schemes, in which classmates’ rewards depend on the physical activity of two friends either reciprocally (directly or indirectly) or collectively. Compared with a random-rewards control, social-rewards schemes have an overall significantly positive effect on physical activity (51.8% increase), with females being more receptive to the direct reciprocity scheme (76.4%) and males to team (collective) rewards (131.5%). Differences in the sex-specific sub-networks can explain these findings. Network interventions adapted to the network-specific characteristics may constitute a powerful tool for behavioural change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-787
Number of pages10
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

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    Proestakis, A., di Sorrentino, E. P., Brown, H. E., van Sluijs, E., Mani, A., Caldeira, S., & Herrmann, B. (2018). Network interventions for changing physical activity behaviour in preadolescents. Nature Human Behaviour, 2(10), 778-787.