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
In general, I try not to share my political opinions on social media or anywhere else where it might disrupt from the type of interaction I’m trying to have. It’s been difficult during election season, with what I perceive as a particularly shall we say passionate presidential race, and finally I have something I must say. I didn’t expect that the thing that would push me over the edge would be the Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. But then she went and started pandering to the anti-science crowd. In the words of Hall and Oates, I can’t go for that. Continue reading What’s So Scary About GMOs? Science Says: Nothing.
One of the areas where sophisticated algorithms and deep databases have made particular inroads is in personalized music streaming services. There are a number of these on the market, but the one I know the most about is Pandora. While I’m not sure if what Pandora runs on is technically categorized as big data, it does seem to be able to learn from both deep and broad patterns to (fairly) successfully predict individual preferences, which is part of the promise of big data. And it does it with a focus on the what rather than the who. Continue reading Pandora’s Siren Song
Big data has been a very hot topic in both technology and behavior science for some time now. People quickly grasp the possibilities big data opens. Theoretically, we can combine all sorts of rich information about individuals, from their shopping habits to their web browsing to their health records to their traffic violations, and use it to engage them in a product, sell them a service, or guide them to better health (I had to add at least one truly prosocial use there). Continue reading The So-Far Wasted Potential of Big Data
Like many psychologists, I was dismayed to see the results of a recent study that attempted to replicate 100 different psychology studies, and managed to support the results in only 36% of cases. The inferential statistical analyses used to make sense of the results of psychology studies are intended to sift through patterns and separate the reliable ones–the ones that aren’t just blips in the data, that are strong enough that they probably represent some real phenomenon–from the spurious. Clearly, in many cases, they are failing. Continue reading Replication, Validity, and the File Drawer Problem in Psychological Research
In my previous job, one of the types of products I worked on was health risk assessments (HRAs). These tools are used by health plans, large employers, and other groups interested in managing the health of a population to assess the prevalence of certain health risks and guide decisions about interventions to offer. Typically an HRA is a long questionnaire about all types of health risks and behaviors, with some kind of feedback to the user at the end about the areas where improvement is most needed. As you might imagine, writing the questionnaire for these tools takes a lot of time and involves careful thought to make sure the questions included are meaningful and produce useful data. Continue reading Case Study: Asking the Right Question About Sex on an HRA
As an undergraduate studying psychology, I dreaded my required research methods classes. Years later as a graduate student instructor, I saw the same lack of enthusiasm in my own students. That’s right, I opted to teach research methods. At some point as I became a better researcher and scientist, it became clear how important research methods are and how interesting they can be. Continue reading Research Methods Matter: The Case of Coffee and Productivity
In the past decade or so, there’s been an increased focus in psychology, and especially in social psychology, to replicate studies. The basic idea is that if a study’s results are accurate, then other researchers should be able to repeat the same study design and get the same results. If they can’t, then there might be a serious problem, such as: Continue reading Musings on Replication Studies
Good news: It exists.
Even better, it’s not only helped people improve their athletic performance, it’s also helped them lose weight and become healthier.
So what is this magic weapon? Continue reading A Simple Secret to Improve Your Running (Or Anything Else)
Statistical validity is one of those things that is vitally important in conducting and consuming social science research, but less than riveting to learn about. It doesn’t help that people use the term “validated” very loosely. In a health coaching context, I hear mention of “validated instruments” and “validated outcomes” without a consistent meaning behind the terms.
In fact, there are lots of types of validity, and depending on what you want to do with your data, you may need to establish validity in several different ways. Saying a measure is valid at a high level means that statistically, it’s measuring what it’s supposed to measure in a stable, meaningful way. Continue reading Types of Statistical Validity: What You’re Measuring and How to Do It