Testing effects of loss framing and checklists: evidence from a field experiment on wellness program participation in Philadelphia

  • Syon P. BhanotEmail author
  • Christina A. Roberto
  • Anjali Chainani
  • Charles Williamson
  • Mehra den Braven
Original Paper


Loss framing and checklist formatting are two oft-cited tools for encouraging behavior change, but there is little causal evidence on their impact in field settings. We partnered with the City of Philadelphia to test the effectiveness of these tools to increase completion of the City’s wellness program. In our experiment, 5235 City employees and retirees were randomly assigned to receive one of four postcard versions (using a 2 × 2 design), whereby we varied both framing (gain or loss) and how instructions were provided (information only or information in checklist format). Our results suggest that neither loss framing nor the checklist formatting significantly influenced the likelihood that individuals would complete the wellness tasks, or how quickly they completed the tasks. We conclude that this specific form of employee behavior may be difficult to influence through the “passive” behavioral interventions we tested, and suggest that a more “active” approach may be required in such instances.


Behavioral economics Checklists Loss framing Experiment Randomized control trial Evidence-based policy 

JEL Classification

H75 C93 I12 D90 



The authors wish to thank the Mayor’s Policy Office and Yuan Huang in particular, along with Marsha Greene-Jones and Jackie Ajose from the Office of Human Resources in the City of Philadelphia for their logistical support.

Supplementary material

40881_2019_77_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA
  2. 2.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.The City of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA

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