Predicting Game: Global Health Part 2

By Ciara Lutz and Ting Jiang

Last month, we asked you to guess whether a storytelling calendar led to greater savings on the M-Tiba platform* than a control calendar (see last month’s post here). We were impressed with your foresight: 75% of you guessed correctly! Of the 66 of you that responded correctly, we randomly selected one lucky winner to receive a free ebook copy of Dan’s new book, Dollars and Sense! 

And the lucky winner is…. Thais! Congratulations, you have won a free ebook copy of Dollars and Sense! The ebook has been sent to you via email.


Figure 1: The story calendar

As most of you guessed, the storytelling calendar led to greater savings than the control calendar. We measured the proportion of participants that saved at least once within the first three months after receiving the calendar and found that no one – 0% –  in the group that received the control calendar saved, while 7.5% of those who received the storytelling calendar saved at least once.

So, why did the storytelling calendar trigger more savings behavior? Our intervention leveraged the so-called “story editing” approach to behavior change that aims to access and change the narratives that people tell themselves about who they are and why they behave the way they do. This “story editing” or “story prompting” approach, advocated by psychologists such as Dr. Timothy D. Wilson, exposes people to structured scenarios (a.k.a. stories) that prompt them to change their self-views and the personal narratives that they tell themselves.

Figure 2: The control calendar

If you recall, in our story, Joseph learns about M-TIBA at his local clinic, signs up, and begins to save regularly on the platform. When his daughter falls ill, he is able to comfort his worried wife with the news that he has enough saved on M-TIBA to pay for their daughter’s medical bills. While this might sound normal to you, this is actually portraying a relatively unusual scenario. In our field site, the women in the household, rather than the men, typically save for health shocks. Based on our qualitative findings, men are less expected to save for healthcare, and they are also less likely to identify themselves as savers. As a result, significantly fewer men were able to follow through the intention of savings even among those who signed up for the mobile health saving wallet, M-TIBA.  

The story of Joseph regularly saving for health expenses and being psychologically rewarded with a sense of pride for properly caring for his family potentially prompted some participants, especially men, to edit their personal narratives with respect to health savings. It also potentially makes the norm of savings more salient. You might wonder what would have happened if the protagonist of the story were Mary instead of Joseph. Would it have the same impact? Would a story of Joseph trigger more men to save, whereas a story of Mary would trigger more women to save? In fact, we are also running a study on this, comparing the impact of these two stories on savings, changing only the gender of the protagonist. We are currently still collecting data. Stay tuned for the findings in one of our future newsletters!  


If you missed out on last month’s predicting game, have no fear! We have prepared another iteration of the predicting game for this month.

What if there were another condition in the calendar study? What if some participants received a goal-setting and planning calendar that would allow them to set a monthly savings goal, circle the planned saving dates on the calendar, and specify 3 unnecessary expenses to cut down on?

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How do you think this calendar would compare to the storytelling calendar? Would the goal-setting and planning calendar be more or less effective  compared to the storytelling calendar? Make a guess via this link. If you guess correctly, your foresight could win you a free e-book!