Category Archives: Psychology

When You Don’t Speak the Language, Literally: My Experience with the Japanese Health Care System and Radical Empathy

A common thing in my world of behavior change and design is a focus on building empathy by talking to people, sharing their perspectives, and living in their worlds. We talk about not designing for but rather with people, and empathy is required to do that. The truth is that even our best tools don’t really let us inhabit others’ lives. We can gain an understanding and emotional connection, but it’s not quite the real thing of experiencing what they experience. Continue reading When You Don’t Speak the Language, Literally: My Experience with the Japanese Health Care System and Radical Empathy

Designing for Financial Behavior: FxD 2018 Panel Recap

It’s easy for financial experts to say what people should do to achieve financial well-being. We can rattle off rules of thumb like: contribute enough to your 401k to achieve the full employer match; set aside enough savings to cover three months of expenses in an emergency; and leverage health savings accounts and other tools to offset the costs of care. These tips can work, but they ignore the reality that many people can’t or won’t follow them. In our panel on Designing for Financial Behavior at the 2018 Financial Experience Design (FxD) conference, we discussed how we can design tools to help improve people’s financial well-being while balancing what people should do with what they can and will do.


Behavior Change Reading List

It’s been a while since I’ve updated anything here, but for good reasons: I am very busy! And with projects and problems that keep my brain occupied, to boot. But, in the interest of not being totally under the radar, I thought I could put my behavior change reading list online here. Often after I talk about behavior change principles, people ask where they can learn more. So I pulled together this list that mixes academic articles with high-quality pop psychology pieces as a starting point for the curious. Enjoy, and please suggest any additions! Continue reading Behavior Change Reading List

Do We Need Persuasion for Behavior Change?

Do We Need Persuasion for Behavior Change?Last month I presented at the World Wildlife Foundation’s (WWF) Fuller Symposium, focused on behavior change for conservation. Several of the speakers from both the psychology and sustainability areas of expertise brought up a point I hadn’t clearly crystalized in my own head, but that I’ve reflected on a lot since the event. It’s pretty simple. Continue reading Do We Need Persuasion for Behavior Change?

Jumping the Technology Literacy Hurdle

Information is no good unless people can access and use it. Not knowing how to use technology keeps people from useful health information. A lack of “technology literacy” can make it hard for people to find and follow reputable health advice online, use and make sense of connected devices, and even interact with their providers when there are tech systems involved. How can we address tech literacy to make these health resources truly available to people? Continue reading Jumping the Technology Literacy Hurdle

Design Tactics to Foster Trust, Part 2: Legalese!

Design Tactics to Foster Trust: LegaleseWant your users to trust your product? It’s not just about the “fun” stuff like giving your product a personality, showing value quickly, and letting people feel a sense of control. It’s also about the “boring” stuff. What’s your privacy policy? How will you handle your users’ data? How will you write the  digital meta-content that explains all of that to users? This stuff matters a lot.

To put the point first: You need to handle users’ data sensitively, and tell them so in language they’ll understand.  Continue reading Design Tactics to Foster Trust, Part 2: Legalese!

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