Behavior Change in the Time of Coronavirus: Why We Need Systems Thinking

Title card with the post title, "Behavior Change in the Time of Coronavirus"Note: This comes from a five month old draft. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten worse rather than better, although we now have a roadmap to vaccination. Yay to that!

I don’t think I would ever have claimed otherwise, but it’s nonetheless humbling to be presented with the evidence. Individual behavior change tactics are not enough. As the coronavirus pandemic rages in the US, we continue to struggle to get individuals to comply with mask wearing and social distancing. And there is no amount of individually-focused interventions that will fix it. We are seeing a huge failure of the system and a real-time case study for why systems thinking (and cross-functional collaboration) are necessary for true cultural-level behavior change. Continue reading Behavior Change in the Time of Coronavirus: Why We Need Systems Thinking

How to Use Self-Discovery to Navigate These Pandemical Times

Nothing right now feels “normal.” Speaking for myself, six seven months into Covid-19 it remains disorienting that my typical hobbies, routines, and routes remain inaccessible to me. This is the longest I’ve gone in my working life without boarding an airplane (and related to that, probably also eating a delicious Biscoff cookie. Yes, I know you can get them at home but they taste best at 30,000 feet). Very early in the pandemic I realized I was going to have to be thoughtful about shaping my experiences if I wanted to make it through in good mental and emotional condition. Continue reading How to Use Self-Discovery to Navigate These Pandemical Times

How Psychology Helped Me Recognize Toxic Tech

Image showing title of post and name of websiteOne thing coronavirus has exposed more broadly is the importance of (good) ethics in tech and design. There have been people raising the alarm about potential missteps and ways to guard against them for years. Some of the more thoughtful books about ethics with algorithms and tech design were published in the last few years by Cathy O’Neil, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and Virginia Eubanks. Books don’t get written overnight; each one represents years of thinking, writing, and research on the part of the author, and none of it done in a dark cave. Yet the ethical dilemmas raised by these authors seemed to be more of an industry concern (and a niche one at that) and not something that the general public paid attention to. Continue reading How Psychology Helped Me Recognize Toxic Tech

Every Project Needs Its Own Research

A key part of our process in a behavior change design project is to do a literature review.  We comb the published peer-reviewed literature to find research that will help us understand the current project. For example, on a recent project where we wanted to design a wellness app for people on Medicaid and Medicare health plans, we looked at research on how social determinants of health (SDoH) affect access to wellness services and care and outcomes associated with community-based health and wellness models. The information we learn from the literature review helps us shape our own research by understanding what, if anything, we might be able to apply from the previous work, the types of questions we might want to ask, and the types of solutions that have worked on similar problems. Continue reading Every Project Needs Its Own Research

A Brief Pandemic Reflection

As I write this, it’s been almost seven weeks since I’ve been to my office. My town has been under stay-at-home orders for about a week less than that. Like so many people, I’m suddenly co-working from my home with family members, having put anxiously awaited plans on hold, worried about the state of the world, and unsure of what comes next. Continue reading A Brief Pandemic Reflection

What Behavior Change for Sustainability and Pandemic Survival Have In Common

Last week I was the inaugural guest on Sustainable UX‘s live podcast series, run by my friend and colleague James Christie. Initially the discussion was intended to be a bit of a book promo with discussion about how Engaged applies to sustainability behaviors. But in between scheduling and the event date, a global pandemic broke out, and well, let’s just say I’ve found it makes it hard for me to focus on much else. So we decided to talk about it. Continue reading What Behavior Change for Sustainability and Pandemic Survival Have In Common

Can Context-Bound Research Replicate?

The reproducibility crisis has hit psychology hard.  In writing Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, I found myself having to double check whether some of the studies I learned about previously are still considered valid to cite.  Part of the book writing process was a technical review, in which I asked five experts to read the manuscript and offer feedback about the accuracy and completeness of the information therein. From that feedback I went through another round of re-review of the information I’d included. Continue reading Can Context-Bound Research Replicate?

12 Bits of Brilliance: Engaged Interviews

One of my favorite parts of writing Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change was talking to experts for their perspectives.  Each of the twelve chapters of Engaged concludes with a two-page conversation with someone who’s doing exciting work related to that chapter’s topic. The interviews gave me a chance to reconnect with old friends and a convenient excuse to reach out to people I admired but did not yet know. It was a huge side benefit I didn’t anticipate about being an author. Continue reading 12 Bits of Brilliance: Engaged Interviews

Taming My Financial Beast

A very cool thing happened today; I was quoted in a New York Times article! A few months ago I spoke with writer Sally French about how credit cards can tempt people into spending more money than they should, and some behavioral science-based tips to mitigate the damage.  I hadn’t known exactly when the article would come out, so it was a nice little surprise. Continue reading Taming My Financial Beast

Psychology for Health and Happiness