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
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
A challenge for public health educators and behavior change experts is helping people who have low levels of health literacy. These people may have difficulty with written communication, understanding medication instructions, or how to care for a chronic condition. Low health literacy is incredibly common, with some groups estimating that as many as 88% of American adults struggle with some aspect of health literacy. Continue reading How Polly Combats Low Health Literacy With Humor and Technology
First, a confession: This series of concurrent research findings was surfaced in the most recent issue of the Klick Wire, a weekly mHealth newsletter. That said, the conclusion that Klick drew from these separate news stories–that the most effective behavior change coaching is personal–is one that I have long believed in, and one that formed the basis of the digital health coaching product I worked on when I was with HealthMedia/J&J. Certainly the goals and purpose of behavior change coaching need to be personal for it to be effective. Other personal details–like extending the coaching beyond purely health-related issues–can also help. And now a series of new findings suggests even more importance for personalizing health behavior. Continue reading The Best Coaching is Personal
New York City is very walkable in the small scale, with its sidewalks, crosswalks, and walk lights, but maybe not so much in the large: Just the island of Manhattan is over 33 square miles and 13.4 miles long from tip-to-tip. Fortunately, it has an excellent subway system. But what if people carved just a little off their subway transit and added just a little bit more walking to their commutes? How might that impact obesity, health, and wellness? Continue reading Walk This Way: Can Rewriting the Subway Map Get More New Yorkers Moving?
A rule of thumb in developing content is to keep the reading level as low as possible for accessibility to the widest possible range of readers. This is challenging for writers; reading levels are typically calculated using algorithms like the Fry Method that account for word length and sentence complexity. Multi-syllable words and multi-part sentences lead to higher reading levels. As a writer, I lament the loss of elegant sentence structure and deliberate diction resulting from attempts to make content accessible to all readers. As a psychologist, I wonder if it’s always necessary given the shortcuts people use for information processing. Continue reading Designing Content for Low-Literacy Readers: Image, Form, Interest
Self-determination theory, at a high level, would predict that giving people choice is a good thing. Giving people the opportunity to choose seems like it would be a great way to support a sense of autonomy. But research also shows that too much choice makes people unhappy. They may struggle to choose, feel less satisfied with their eventual choice, or even opt out of the choice entirely (Iyengar, 2010). And that’s not even getting into issues of individual preferences around choices. Continue reading “Goldilocksing” on Choice: How Much Is the Right Amount?
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a self-reward. If you want to lose weight, you might decide to give yourself a new pair of shoes when you hit a milestone. Maybe you only watch your favorite tv show after you finish doing your least favorite work task. Or, to borrow a provocative example from Kathleen Milkman, maybe you only eat your most favorite hamburger when spending time with your least favorite person (for those of you with cranky relatives). If you do use self-rewards, psychology can help make them more effective for you. Continue reading Treat Yo’ Self: How To Use Rewards to Effectively Promote New Habits
One of my favorite things to do when I travel to a new country is hit a grocery store and check out the products. I love seeing the variations on items between home and abroad. The first time I saw eggs stored on a room temperature shelf instead of a refrigerator case, my mind was blown. Call me weird if you like, but it’s a cheap thrill that I’ll always take. Continue reading Veggies in the Front: Environmental Guardrails for Healthy Eating
A few months ago, I spoke with Shape.com about a phenomenon they dubbed “streaking.” Streaking refers to performing a specific health-related behavior every day for a certain period of time (a week, a month, a year). As an example, Runner’s World facilitates season-based run streaks including social media posts and badges that can be shared on one’s profile. I’ve also seen people commit to some type of exercise every day for a month, often during January or February when New Year’s resolutions abound. Continue reading My First Streaking Experience