Category Archives: Psychology

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

Digital Health Is Not a Hammer: Why Your Interventions May Be Set Up for Failure

As more data has become available on the success of digital health and wellness platforms, it’s become clear that many health plans and self-insured employers don’t have the positive return on investment (ROI) they’d hoped to see. A 2013 study by RAND  Health (which did not focus exclusively on digital interventions) finds that employers have an overall ROI for health and wellness interventions of $1.50 per employee, but that disease management programs drive much of it. Wellness programs deliver, on average, only about a $0.50 ROI. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not enough to pin all of our hopes on. Is it time to give up on digital health? Continue reading Digital Health Is Not a Hammer: Why Your Interventions May Be Set Up for Failure

Nudge Me to the Ballot Box: Behavioral Economics in Action

I found a postcard in our mailbox last week that was a textbook example of several behavioral economics and behavior change tactics. Its intention is to nudge people to vote more consistently, including in smaller local elections. The group sending the card, the Environmental Voter Project, urges voters to support politicians and policies for sustainability. It’s an interesting example of how some behavioral economics tactics might actually come to life in an intervention. Continue reading Nudge Me to the Ballot Box: Behavioral Economics in Action

Three Examples of Digital Badges That Support Psychological Needs

How can digital badges serve as a source of motivation? One way is by supporting core underlying psychological needs. Three such needs identified in self-determination theory are autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Experiences that support these needs have been shown to be more engaging and energizing for users. Fortunately given their prevalence, digital badges are capable of supporting all three of these particular needs. Here’s how. Continue reading Three Examples of Digital Badges That Support Psychological Needs

Awarding the Right Behaviors in Digital Design

Digital badges to encourage behavior are a fine idea in concept but riddled with issues in practice. I talked about badges at UXPA International last week (slides here), including a whole host of reasons why they go awry. One of the biggest ones, in my opinion, is that designers may choose to award digital badges for behaviors that aren’t really critical ones for obtaining meaningful outcomes. Instead, they reward behaviors that are easy to measure (like clicks or check-ins). The result is a reward system that doesn’t actually lead to results. Continue reading Awarding the Right Behaviors in Digital Design

The Bystander Effect, Cognitive Biases, and Standing Up for Good

What happened last week in Portland was shocking. After a man on the light-rail train began yelling what has been described as “hate speech” at two teenage girls, he stabbed three men who tried to intervene and help. Two of them, Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, died. A third, Micah Fletcher, was critically injured. As the world learns what happened, one line of comment I’ve seen is along the lines of: This is why you don’t step in to help. Continue reading The Bystander Effect, Cognitive Biases, and Standing Up for Good

Advice for Field Research From Stephen Colbert

OK, so maybe Stephen Colbert wrote this list of tips for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewers working on field pieces and not people like me who are doing field research for less entertaining purposes. No big deal. I read this list of advice in The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History and knew it was just as useful for my type of research as it is for theirs. This is great advice for developing a rapport with someone, getting good information, and bringing a conversation back to a point. So without further ado: Continue reading Advice for Field Research From Stephen Colbert

Making Corporate Values Visible: Livestrong

It may seem like a minor thing, but visual displays of corporate values can help employees to internalize those ideals as they go about their work. I’m very interested in the cultural artifacts that make corporate values apparent in the physical workspace–much as Johnson & Johnson does with the display of its Credo in its offices around the world. While having highly visible values doesn’t guarantee that employees live into them, it does help to socialize those values and ensure a base level of familiarity.  And when everyday behaviors do align with the physical artifacts that are the topmost level of organizational culture, that’s when the magic happens. Continue reading Making Corporate Values Visible: Livestrong