Design Tactics to Foster Trust

How do you build technology that people trust?

The world gives us so many examples why we shouldn’t trust technology. Many Americans recently had their personal financial data put at risk by Equifax. It’s looking increasingly likely that Facebook deliberately shaped people’s information exposure in ways that influenced a presidential election. And there are reports that hackers can hijack connected home devices with high frequency voice commands not detectable by human ears. Yet, we persist in creating digital solutions for health, finance, and other incredibly personal topics and ask people to trust them–to trust us. Continue reading Design Tactics to Foster Trust

Behavior Change Truth: Action Is Harder Than Inaction

One category of behavioral economics judo is flipping from opt-in to opt-out.  More people enroll in 401ks when they have to uncheck the box to join, as opposed to checking it. And more people will pay their credit cards in full if the default is to do so, rather than to go on a payment plan. The real magic underlying the opt-out, though, is simple: Action is harder than inaction. Make the desired behavior passive, and it’s more likely to happen. Continue reading Behavior Change Truth: Action Is Harder Than Inaction

Three Simple Tricks to Maximize Follow-Through

“If I were you, I’d call an ambulance right now.”

I was on the phone with a doctor after-hours asking what we should do about some symptoms my husband was experiencing after a minor car accident. The urgent care clinic we normally use was closed for the day, and I was wondering if it was worth going to the Emergency Room. The doctor clearly felt that the ER was where we needed to be, and in a smooth bit of behavior change judo, made sure that’s where we ended up. She did three specific things that quickly got me moving: Continue reading Three Simple Tricks to Maximize Follow-Through

Believing In Behavior Change Means Believing People Can Change

I suppose this post is politically motivated, although I’ll try to leave the actual politics out so as to not obscure my point by putting off people with beliefs different than mine. I’ve noticed two general behavior patterns that disturb me with respect to politics and positions. The first is when a politician is called out for past behaviors or viewpoints in a way that implies he or she will never be fit for future service, regardless of current behaviors or viewpoints. The second is people who declare a change of heart and are told that it’s too little too late. The philosophy here is essentially that if someone has made mistakes in the past, then there is no room for them in the future. And as much as I sometimes also bristle at the things on someone’s resume, I just don’t believe that’s true. I can’t do the work I do and believe that’s true. Continue reading Believing In Behavior Change Means Believing People Can Change

Mental Well-Being and the PhD Student

So it seems like the general public has finally noticed that grad school is bad for students’ mental health. We’ve known the punishing medical school curriculum burns students out, but it seems PhD programs aren’t doing much better. I’ve recently seen headlines like  “PhD students have double the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder than the rest of the ‘highly educated’ population” or “Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges.” Based on my experiences, these headlines, to understate things, are absolutely true.  Continue reading Mental Well-Being and the PhD Student

What’s in a Nudge? Our SXSW Submission

I am super excited about the panel I submitted for SXSW 2018. It’s called “What’s in a Nudge? Behavior Change in Health” and it will focus on the uses and limits of behavioral economics in engaging patients with their healthcare. I’m a little amazed at the caliber of the speakers who agreed to be part of the panel–all women who I admire professionally and personally: Continue reading What’s in a Nudge? Our SXSW Submission

How Can Voice Tech Help Health Behavior Change? The Alexa Diabetes Challenge

I’ve gotten to do some cool work things lately. One big one is getting involved in the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, sponsored by Merck & Co., and supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Contestants are tasked with coming up with an idea, and later a working prototype, for an intervention that leverages Alexa’s voice technology to support people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The challenge administrators, Luminary Labs, curated a panel of subject matter experts across a variety of domains to work with the five finalists. I’m supporting them on behavior change, along with Marika Saarinen, a PharmD and certified diabetes educator at Virginia Mason. Continue reading How Can Voice Tech Help Health Behavior Change? The Alexa Diabetes Challenge

Against Empathy? Maybe

I just read Against Empathy by Paul Bloom and have some thoughts. I picked the book up partly because of the provocative title. My work relies heavily on empathy–or what we call empathy–to understand the challenges and needs of people who will eventually engage with the product or experience we’re designing. Could it be that empathy is the wrong tool? After reading Bloom’s book, I think: Sort of. Continue reading Against Empathy? Maybe

Behavioral Economics Black Magic: Fixed Schedule Billing

I have a feeling that if you asked most people how gyms make money, they’d intuitively grasp for an explanation that involves fixed schedule billing. The idea is simple. Businesses that operate under a subscription fee, like gyms, automatically withdraw the next payment each period unless the customer provides written de-authorization a certain number of days or weeks in advance. For a variety of reasons, many people will go on paying for months or years without using the service. The result is a steady profit stream for the business and a customer spending money for no value. Continue reading Behavioral Economics Black Magic: Fixed Schedule Billing

Five Best Practices for Digital Badges for Behavior Change

It’s easy to come up with examples of digital badges that don’t work, or are simply too silly to be serious tools for engagement. It’s far more difficult to take the positive perspective and determine the features that can make a digital badge an effective tool for behavior change. My interest in badges originally stemmed from a critical place, both from seeing badly done versions as a user, and having clients ask for badges without a thoughtful supporting strategy. But working through that critique has brought me to the following set of recommendations for doing digital badges well. Continue reading Five Best Practices for Digital Badges for Behavior Change

Psychology for Health and Happiness