Category Archives: Teaching

Your Secret Communication Weapon: A Good Story

Your Secret Communication Weapon-Stories are powerful tools to persuade, teach, and communicate with people. Stories capture attention in a way that straightfoward data cannot. They transcend education and literacy levels, appeal across demographic groups, and cut through cognitive load. Now, there’s even evidence that stories work at a neurological level, causing the release of oxytocin.

Stories can be used for many purposes. Here are a few practical ones: Continue reading Your Secret Communication Weapon: A Good Story

My Teaching Philosophy (and how I guess I never change!)

TeachingI was browsing through old documents and found my teaching philosophy from 2005, when I was contemplating the academic job market.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the same principles I valued back then for teaching are the same ones I emphasize today in thinking about coaching people to improve their health and happiness. Basically, I want to help people learn a set of skills that they can apply to the challenges they face in a way that helps them achieve meaningful goals. It’s sort of nice to see that these ideas have been percolating in my consciousness for a long time, and that in a different way than I’d planned, I’m living the dream.

Here’s the teaching philosophy (unedited, though I added some emphasis where things particularly caught my eye). Continue reading My Teaching Philosophy (and how I guess I never change!)

Types of Statistical Validity: What You’re Measuring and How to Do It

Types of Statistical Validity- What TheyStatistical 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

Three Tips to Be A Better Public Speaker

3 TipsOne of my many weird qualities is that I actually enjoy public speaking. It’s taken me a while to get here. I remember the very first time I presented professionally in front of an audience. It was at a conference in New Orleans early in my grad school career. I had lost a contact on Bourbon Street a few nights before and was stuck wearing my glasses over a red and watering eye. I was presenting on the last day of the conference, and had given myself a lot of negative self-talk about what this implied for the quality of my presentation. The situation was not ideal. Even though there were only a handful of people in the audience, I was incredibly nervous. My hands visibly shook throughout my talk, and my voice wavered like it’s never done before or since.

It was awful.

However, I’m the type of person who is fueled by failure, so I decided I would become a better public speaker. Over the last decade plus, I’ve made an effort to speak in public as often as I can, and to improve with each go-around. Here are three of my favorite tips for becoming a more compelling and engaging speaker, and having more fun at the podium. Continue reading Three Tips to Be A Better Public Speaker

Designing for Behavior Change Event

If you’re interested, I will be speaking at a cool event on Thursday, August 28th about designing for behavior change. It was organized by Joshua Kotfila of the Boston Organized Self group, so I expect we’ll have a lot of discussion about data tracking and feedback and how those guide changing health behaviors. My co-presenters are amazing:

You can purchase tickets for the event by clicking here. As the event description says,

If you are a designer, technologist, health professional, entrepreneur, journalist, scientist, or user, please join us for an interactive evening of inspiration packed with great speakers, networking and more!

How to Research, 2014-Style

Timely and cute visual joke about keyboard shortcuts!

A few years ago, I read an article making a strong argument that Ctrl-F is the most important computer skill for the modern researcher or student. For those of you who don’t know about Ctrl-F, it’s the keyboard shortcut that allows you to search for content in a page. It is one of my most-used shortcuts; I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I use it every single day, whether to find my place in a Twitter feed, seek out notes left for me by a colleague in a document, or locate the information I want to cite.

Yet, the Atlantic interviewed a Google “search anthropologist” (side note: WHAT?! What a cool job!), Dan Russell, who said NINETY PERCENT of people don’t know about Ctrl-F. That, my friends, is crazy. Continue reading How to Research, 2014-Style

The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning. Continue reading The Power of Beautiful Design

Motivate Your User Through Design Psychology: Presentation from UXPA Boston 2014

For anyone who is interested, I just uploaded my slides from today’s Motivate Your User Through Design Psychology session at UXPA Boston to SlideShare:

I am really pleased with the session and the comments and conversations I’ve had with people who attended. I feel like I learn so much when I discuss these concepts with people who have fresh eyes (or differently experienced eyes). Big thanks to everyone who attended!

I also learned that I need to spend some work on slide design. As usual when I attend a conference, I am insanely jealous of the people with design skills and their awesome-looking presentations.

Presenting At UXPA Boston

I found out a few days ago that my presentation proposal was accepted to UXPA Boston on May 15. I’m pretty excited–user experience is a topic I’m passionate about, and I’ve found it’s not always easy as a psychologist to have a voice in that process. People usually think of designers and information architects when they think of UX, but we psychologists have some things to add too!

The agenda for the conference was just published this week and I have to say I am both excited and intimidated by it. Excited because I’m going to get to see a lot of great presentations that will add immediate value to my day-to-day work–and intimidated for obvious reasons.

Anyway, if you work in the area of user experience, check out the UXPA Boston event. You’ll definitely learn at least one thing, and it’s next door to one of my favorite watering holes, Bukowski Tavern, for post-conference beer time.

Design Psychology at, 3/24/14

Tomorrow night I’ll be back at to talk about Design Psychology. If you’re in the Boston area and want to learn more about how to apply principles of motivation to your product design, please come!

I really love being at The people who attend the classes are awesome, smart and motivated folks from a wide variety of backgrounds. I feel like I always come away from these nights with new questions and perspectives on motivational design when I teach, and every one I’ve attended as a student has been excellent as well. I really recommend attending a class or two if you’re in the Boston area. It doesn’t even have to be mine!

(Although if you want to attend mine . . .