Behavioral Phenotyping to Optimize Design and Delivery of Financial Incentives for Smoking Cessation during Pregnancy




Associate Professor of Nursing; Assistant Professor of Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine; Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics

Project Summary

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alison Buttenheim as well as four other talented undergraduate research assistants on a study funded by the Summer Undergraduate Research Group Grant (SURGG). As a team, our goal was to better understand how pregnant women, specifically those who currently smoke or who recently quit after finding out they were pregnant, make decisions. We hope to use the information collected to develop a “behavioral phenotype” that is common to all pregnant smokers, and then use this behavioral phenotype to design a smoking cessation program for this patient population. We began by developing a survey instrument that assessed various cognitive biases that measure behaviors such as risk-aversion or information avoidance. At the end of our survey, we also asked a few questions related to a hypothetical smoking cessation program, in which each participant designed a program with features that they would most prefer. We distributed our finished survey in person at an OBGYN clinic as well as online through several crowdsourcing platforms (Qualtrics, Soapbox, and Amazon mTurk) and Reddit advertisements.

Being a member of the SURGG team has taught me a great deal about how the process of academic research works. Each group member was able to take the lead on different aspects of the project while simultaneously involving the others in every step of the process, creating a positive work environment. My part in the project included programming our survey instrument on Qualtrics, researching how crowdsourcing platforms such as Qualtrics and Soapbox work, and working closely with the research department at the OBGYN clinic to ensure that the SURGG team followed the correct protocol while recruiting participants in clinic. I greatly enjoyed researching online recruitment strategies and helping choose the crowdsourcing platforms that best worked for our study. As a nursing student, however, my favorite part of the study was taking a lead on in-clinic recruitment and interacting with patients in person.

I enjoyed working with the SURGG team because of how well we communicated with each other as well as with our mentor. Each member of our team made sure to keep the others updated on his or her progress. Although I was mostly involved in setting up our online crowdsourcing and in-clinic recruitment, I was still able to stay updated on things such as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposals and Reddit ads, seeing how the process works for each of those areas of our study.

My experience this summer has taught me a great deal about research and has furthered my knowledge and interest in behavioral economics and public health. I am happy I was able to work with and learn from a team of undergraduate students with different interests and majors. I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Buttenheim and have her as my research mentor.