This spring, Blue Cross Blue Shield invited Congressional members and their staffs to take part in the Capitol Hill Challenge, described as a “healthy competition to see who on Capitol Hill can walk the greatest distance over six weeks while promoting physical activity and benefiting a charity along the way.” Sixty members signed up and kept track of their steps for six weeks. Winning the category of most miles walked was the office of Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) with 6,590 miles. The highest average per walker came from the office of Rep. John M. Jr. Spratt (South Carolina) with almost 299 miles walked per person.
To count every step, Blue Cross Blue Shield gave Congressional members and staffers a pedometer, a tool – a visual display that gives immediate feedback – that we at the Nudge blog have always liked.
But the Capitol Hill Challenge also tapped in another theme that interests us: Persuasion. Congressional members were able to sign up staffers in their offices, plus staffers on committees they served on, which meant the surest way to be a top walker was to nudge your aides to walk with you. Through social norms, direct appeals, incentives, or good old fashioned coercive paternalism, members had a variety of different ways to sign up staffers. So which member’s reach extended the furthest?
Cass Sunstein is currently the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and has no affiliation with the Nudge blog.
The Nudge blog is edited by John Balz.
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