Category Archives: Psychology

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

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

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