A key part of our process in a behavior change design project is to do a literature review. We comb the published peer-reviewed literature to find research that will help us understand the current project. For example, on a recent project where we wanted to design a wellness app for people on Medicaid and Medicare health plans, we looked at research on how social determinants of health (SDoH) affect access to wellness services and care and outcomes associated with community-based health and wellness models. The information we learn from the literature review helps us shape our own research by understanding what, if anything, we might be able to apply from the previous work, the types of questions we might want to ask, and the types of solutions that have worked on similar problems. Continue reading Every Project Needs Its Own Research
OK, so maybe Stephen Colbert wrote this list of tips for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewers working on field pieces and not people like me who are doing field research for less entertaining purposes. No big deal. I read this list of advice in The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History and knew it was just as useful for my type of research as it is for theirs. This is great advice for developing a rapport with someone, getting good information, and bringing a conversation back to a point. So without further ado: Continue reading Advice for Field Research From Stephen Colbert
No matter how well-designed, well-researched, and well-implemented any given product or experience is, it will never work for 100% of people. This is true for health interventions, consumer products, financial services, you name it. And while it sounds pessimistic to say that, the reason why is both obvious and (at least to me) interesting: Everybody is different. Continue reading Why Great Design Will Never Be 100% Effective
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.
If you’ve ever seen me do any version of a talk on motivational design, you know I’m skeptical about the utility of badges for engagement. It’s not that badges are a bad tool. It’s that they get misused. Programs may award a badge for the wrong behavior. Or the badge may encourage cheating and shortcuts to get the reward. Or, while a virtual badge rarely carries any real value, it might be too much reward for the behavior, eventually leading to lower engagement levels. So, I was surprised to see that an effort to award scientists digital badges displayed alongside their publications in search results was gathering momentum. Continue reading Why Do Scientist Badges Work?
Given my former line of business working on digital wellness programs for employees and health plan members, I’ve tended to have a positive spin on the trend of including these types of programs in the benefits package. While I am not a big fan of financial incentives for health behaviors because they might re-wire motivation, I didn’t necessarily see them as morally ambiguous. That is, I didn’t necessarily see them as morally ambiguous until I read an article that helped me draw a parallel between rewarding wellness programs and research ethics. Continue reading When Is a Reward Coercion? The Case of Workplace Wellness Programs
Three months after inciting the ire of researchers and users with their stealth emotional manipulation study, Facebook has announced a revised research policy. The new policy addresses four key areas:
- Clearer guidelines for researchers
- An additional layer of review
- Enhanced training for new Facebook employees around research
- Increased transparency via a page compiling all Facebook research
You’ve undoubtedly heard by now about Facebook’s large scale emotion manipulation study, conducted on their site users. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, found that when Facebook users saw a greater concentration of negative posts in their newsfeed, they were more likely to post negative statuses themselves; the same pattern emerged for positive status updates. [This research probably also partially explains Facebook’s insistence on pushing the Top Stories sort on users regardless of their preference; it’s the manipulation in a massive social science study. Which doesn’t make it any less of a violation of users’ sense of autonomy, and thus a poor motivational experience.]
The study has its problems, which I’ll get into, but the thing that really makes me angry about it is the cavalier attitude it reveals toward informed consent. Informed consent is a requirement of human subjects research. What is means is that if a person is being manipulated in any way, they must give explicit permission to the researcher to be a part of the study. The informed piece is important: Continue reading Facebook’s Informed Consent Problem