Evaluating Similarity Variables for Peer Matching in Digital Health Storytelling

Herman Saksono, Vivien Morris, Andrea G. Parker, and Krzysztof Z. Gajos



Peer matching can enhance the impact of social health technologies. By matching similar peers, online health communities can optimally facilitate social modeling that supports positive health attitudes and moods. However, little work has examined how to operationalize similarities in digital health tools, thus limiting our ability to perform optimal peer matching. To address this gap, we conducted a factorial experiment to examine how three categories of similarity variables (i.e., Demographic, Ability, Experiential) can be used to perform peer matching that supports the social modeling of physical activity. We focus this study on physical activity because it is a health behavior that reduces the risk of chronic diseases. We also prioritized this study for single-caregiver mothers who often face substantial barriers to being active because of immense employment and household responsibilities, especially Black single-caregiver mothers. We recruited 309 single-caregiver mothers (49\% Black, 51\% white), then we asked them to listen to peer audio storytelling about family physical activity. We randomly matched/mismatched the storyteller's profile using the three categories of similarity variables. Our analyses demonstrated that matching by Demographic variables led to a significantly higher Physical Activity Intention. Furthermore, our subgroup analyses indicated that Black single-caregiver mothers experienced a significant and immediate effect of peer matching in Physical Activity Intention, Self-efficacy, and mood. In contrast, white single-caregiver mothers did not report any significant immediate effect. Collectively, our data suggest that peer matching in health storytelling is potentially beneficial for racially minoritized groups; and that having diverse representations in health technology is required for promoting health equity.

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Herman Saksono, Vivien Morris, Andrea G. Parker, and Krzysztof Z. Gajos. Evaluating similarity variables for peer matching in digital health storytelling. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., 7(CSCW2), oct 2023.