No effect of gamification on attrition from a web-based longitudinal cognitive testing study
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Reason for embargo
Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by JMIR Publications. No embargo required on publication
Background: The prospect of assessing cognition longitudinally and remotely is attractive to researchers, health practitioners and pharmaceutical companies alike. However, such repeatedtesting regimes place a considerable burden on participants, and with cognitive tasks typically being regarded as effortful and unengaging, these studies may experience high levels of participant attrition. One potential solution is to gamify these tasks to make them more engaging: increasing participant willingness to take part and reducing attrition. However, such an approach must balance task validity with the introduction of entertaining gamelike elements. Objectives: We set out to investigate the effects of gamelike features on participant attrition using a between-subjects, longitudinal online testing study. Methods: We used three variants of a common cognitive task, the stop signal task, with a single gamelike feature in each: one variant where points were rewarded for performing optimally, another where the task was given a graphical theme, and a third variant which was a standard stop signal task and served as a control condition. Participants completed four compulsory test sessions over four consecutive days before entering a six-day voluntary testing period where they faced a daily decision to either drop out or continue taking part. Participants were paid for each session they completed. Results: 482 participants signed up to take part in the study, with 265 completing the requisite four consecutive test sessions. We saw no evidence for an effect of gamification on attrition. A log-rank test showed no evidence of a difference in dropout rates between task variants (X 2 (2, N = 265) = 3.022, p = .22) and a one-way ANOVA of the mean number of sessions completed per participant in each variant also showed no evidence for a difference (F [2,262] = 1.534, p = .21, partial η2 = 0.012. Conclusions: Our findings raise doubts about the ability of gamification to reduce attrition from longitudinal cognitive testing studies.
Funding from British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, and the National Institute for Health Research, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. This work was supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12013/6 and MC_UU_12013/7), and a PhD studentship to JL funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Cambridge Cognition Limited.
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