Emotion Mapping - Tech for Youth Resilience (Presented at YTH Live 2014)


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Sometimes, life can just feel downright hard. Facing adversity can affect one’s mental health and lead to health-harming behaviors. In this presentation, the approach of using technology for emotion regulation and enhancing youth resilience is explored by HopeLab staff Fred Dillon, Director of Product Development, and Janxin Leu, Ph.D., Director of Product Innovation.

The presentation was given at YTH Live 2014, the premier conference for cutting-edge technology that is advancing the health and wellness of youth, young adults, and other underserved populations.

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  • Good morning!  I’m Janxin Leu, head of product innovation at HopeLab, and presenting with me today is my colleague Fred Dillon, HopeLab’s head of product development.  We work for HopeLab, a nonprofit R&D organization that harnesses the power and appeal of technology to improve health and well-being.  HopeLab is a unit of the Omidyar Group—a network of philanthropic enterprises founded by Pam Omidyar and Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay.  Today Fred and I are going to share some of the theoretical underpinnings of our work, as well as a practical design approach that might be useful to you in our own projects.Today Fred and I are going to share some of the theoretical underpinnings of our work, as well as a practical design approach that might be useful to you in our own projects.But before we do that, we want to take a few minutes to help you get to know some of the people in the room you may note know …[LEAD CHECK-IN EXERCISE THAT HIGHLIGHT PURPOSE, CONNECTION, CONTROL … ]Now that we have your attention again, I have to confess – we’ve actually just run a little experiment with you. Our check-in this morning has actually boosted your resilience. And I’m going to explain how.
  • Some of you may know HopeLab’s earlier work to create tech products that help young people fight cancer and motivate kids to be more physically active. Our work now focuses on resilience – specifically, the research and development of new social technologies to promote human resilience in both youth and adults.  The definition of resilience that guides our work is the ability to bounce back from adversity, both psychological and physical.
  • Our goal in cultivating resilience is to support better health and greater well being – even in the face of challenging circumstances.  Building resilience is critical to creating a world where people live feeling safe and loved and are able to flourish.
  • We’re particularly interested in the potential for mobile tech to foster greater resilience and compassionate action given its increasingly ubiquitous role in our everyday lives.
  • As a research based organization, we first turned to science to understand how we might approach this work.  Scientific research indicates that there are three psychological experiences we can cultivate to bolster resilience.  They are a sense of purpose, connection, and control. These experiences not only improve our psychological well-being; they can also improve our physical health. At HopeLab, we’re exploring ways technology might help bolster these experiences in everyday life. Before Fred gives you an example of how we’re doing this, I’d like to take a few moments to define purpose, connection and control for you more concretely. As I share our definitions of these terms, you’ll see references to studies that have informed our thinking on these connections between psychological experiences and physical health. In the interest of time, I won’t go into detail on the research but we’d be happy to share this with you if in follow-up, if you’d like.
  • So the first is purpose. Purpose is a far-reaching, steady goal; something personally meaningful that also reaches out into the world. [JANXIN: Add specific statement/data point around “purpose” as it relates to teens/youth. Perhaps something from Bill Damon’s work?] Science tells us that a sense of purpose can affect not only our psychological well-being but also our gene expression.
  • 30 – 90 second video clip illustrating a sense of purpose, particularly among youth
  • Now, if you are like me, you actively pursue happiness as a way to increase your health and well-being.
  • Happiness is sometimes about feeling good. Like when I get a great deal on a cute dress. [Big Smile icon]
  • But there’s another kind of happiness related to doing good. Happiness from doing good is associated with a deep sense of meaning in life, connecting to a cause greater than ourselves. Like volunteering to help a community recover from a natural disaster. [Little Smile icon]You don’t get an instant endorphin rush when you’re trying to save the world, but in the long run, it can be more rewarding than short-term fixes. And there is evidence that this happiness derived from a sense of purpose is better for your biological health.
  • Researchers at the University of North Carolina compared happiness from Feeling Good and Doing Good to determine which is the most opposite of being stressed, defensive, and feeling miserable. They asked 80 people questions about how happy they felt and how depressed they felt using well-established instruments. And then they drew their blood to analyze the genes in their white blood cells.
  • Both Feeling Good and Doing Good were inversely related to depression. At the psychological level, both kinds of happiness were associated with fewer feelings of depression. In other words, trying to solve the world’s problems by doing good mayhelp buffer us from depression.
  • But each type of happiness had a unique fingerprint in gene expression.
  • Happiness from doing good was linked with reduced inflammation in the body – or in biomedical terms, the downregulation of pro-inflammatory genes. This is a healthy pattern. We want to see low levels of inflammation gene expression in our bodies, in general. Inflammation is helpful in small amounts – it can be a sign of healing, like the swelling around a cut or a bruise. Large amounts of inflammation can place you at risk for a wide range of diseases. Inflammation also serves as an inadvertent fertilizer for chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Think of it this way: Inflammation is like an iron—it’s really good at solving a small set of problems, like getting the wrinkle out of a shirt. But if you leave it on for too long, it will burn your house down.Happiness from doing good was also linked with an increase, or up-regulation, of antiviral genes. This is also a healthy pattern. These genes help produce an antibody response that protects us against viruses like the common cold we catch from our cubicle neighbors or our children. I know my daughter brings home every conceivable virus form daycare. So high levels antiviral gene expression will help keep me healthy.You can see that people who are high in happiness from doing good are looking pretty good. Both their psychological and biological well-being look healthy.
  • Interestingly, though, people with high levels of happiness from feeling good seem to be headed in a different direction. They are experiencing a lot of happiness, like when I buy that cute dress, but their biology is going in the opposite direction. Now don’t take this as “happiness from feeling good is bad for you.” There’s probably no immediate harm from chasing happiness for the sake of happiness. But in the absence of happiness from doing good, if you are just a Happiness Junkie, only looking for hits of happiness from feeling good may set you up for disease.So, the research indicates that cultivating a sense of purpose in life beyond momentary gratification can improve our wellbeing,even at the genetic level.
  • Interesting, right? Currently, there are many apps which track and help you feel good, but far fewer to get into the mindset of doing good. So there’s an opportunity here.What else might we learn about how to live the good and resilient life? Let’s continue to poll the opinion of our genome. After all it’s got over 10 million years of memory about the true nature of human beings and what makes us thrive!HMW use emotion mapping to do good not just feel good?
  • Connection, in our definition, is a deep sense of belonging. In the absence of social connection, we grow lonely. And research shows that loneliness can be lethal. Authentic social connections can improve biological and psychological health outcomes.[JANXIN: Add data point on sense of connection and youth. Perhaps from research on adverse outcomes of bullying and a counter data point on the positive impact of bystanders who reach out to the bullied (ask Brian).]
  • 30 – 90 second video clip illustrating a sense of connection, particularly among youth
  • I think you know that this doesn’t mean just having 500 facebook friends. I’m referring to deep relationships that make you feel supported and loved.
  • Without these deep connections to people, we grow lonely. And science tells us that loneliness can make us very sick. In fact, it can be lethal. Here’s how.First, in this context, loneliness is not the productive seclusion of an artist creating a masterpiece. It’s not the dissatisfaction from a bad month with your lover or friend. It’s not having only a couple of close friends. By loneliness, wemean the long-term condition of wanting and not having social intimacy, not feeling like you belong. Anywhere.Science demonstrates that the feeling of loneliness wreaks havoc on the body. And not necessarily because you don’t have people to take care of you when you are sick.
  • A study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the most reliable predictor of death in an HIV-positive or open, about his sexuality. Why? Think about what it feels like to be in the closet about something. It is incredibly lonely. You hide behind a false identity.You impose sharp limits on intimacy, and live in constant terror of exposure. At the biogical level, stress hormones flood your body, your tissues swell up, and your white blood cells swarm out to protect you against assault.
  • These researchers found that closeted men with HIV died an average of 2 to 3 years earlier than men who could come out. In fact, the researchers found that the feeling of loneliness was more predictive of an earlier death than whether or not someonehad support for maintaining his health.
  • When AIDS-infected white blood cells were place in a soup of stress hormones…
  • …the virus replicated 3 to 10 times faster than it did in cells in a control condition.
  • …the virus replicated 3 to 10 times faster than it did in cells in a control condition.
  • What does this mean for us? It shows us that when we feel connected and safe, our body feels safe. When our body doesn’t feel safe, we get sick.This suggests another opportunity area for developers. Currently, there are plenty of apps that allow you to casually meet and share with people, but far fewer that help you cultivate deep connections with others.
  • By control, we refer to our belief in our power to affect our destinies. This experience of control is the engine of motivation.  Feeling empowered can help us heal. Boosting self-efficacy can change behavior and biology. 
  • Clip from HL YouTube channel, either video of RM2 at CHLA event or RM2 overview video w/ Ellen and kid developers
  • Our first project at HopeLab was a video game that helped kids and teens diagnosed with cancer increase their sense of control, their belief that they had the power to do what it takes to fight their disease.
  • As you can probably imagine, a kid who’s facing cancer may feel like she has very little control or ability to fight the invisible evil.
  • At HopeLab, we asked ourselves, how might we give kids with cancer a greater sense of control?
  • We decided to make this invisible enemy visible, and give kids the power to attack it.
  • We created a video game called Re-Mission, where kids could blast away cancer cells, battle bacterial infections, and manage the side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatments
  • We created a video game called Re-Mission, where kids could blast away cancer cells, battle bacterial infections, and manage the side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatments
  • It didn’t cure cancer, but it gave these kids a sense of greater control. And that sense of control translated into healthier behavior.
  • Research using randomized clinical trials showed that young cancer patients who played Re-Mission stuck to their medications more consistently. Cancer patients who play the game have a greater perception that they can influence their own cancer outcomes. And they are more motivated to beat their cancer. A Stanford neuroimaging study showed that the part of the brain that reflects motivation lit up in kids who played the game, more than in kids who were just watching the game. The interactive nature of game play, the sense that you have some control of what’s happening, was key. So it’s not surprising that the kids with cancer who played this game felt more control and, as a result, were more likely to take their pills and follow their medical regimen than kids who didn’t.Again, this suggests an opportunity space. There are plenty of apps that help you gain control over your pill schedule or track your weight loss, but not enough to help you gain a sense of control over your destiny.
  • Now, with these definitions in mind, our question to the community of researchers and developers gathered here is: How might technology be designed to enhance purpose, connection and control in people’s everyday lives?  For inspiration, Fred will give you some insights into our own technology development processes at HopeLab.
  • One practice that can help us tap into our resilience is emotion mapping. Emotion mapping builds skills in recognizing and managing our feelings. The better we are at understanding and regulating our emotions, the better able we are to maintain a sense of well-being and effectively navigate our social and psychological experiences as we move through the world.Keep in mind the components of resilience: purpose, connection, and control. Those of us who become skilled at regulating our emotions are likely to have a greater sense of control. With greater emotion regulation, you can build deeper, more authentic connections with friends and family members.Ultimately, learning to regulate our emotions supports our staying “on purpose” –because whatever your goal, you will face challenges that require emotion regulation; because for many of us, being on purpose means being there for family and friends even when it gets hard. 
  • But think about it: What concrete,evidence-based tools are available to parents, educators and professionals to develop emotional intelligence skills?
  • The idea of emotion mapping to support resilience is based on the work of Marc Brackett and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Marc and his team have created a curriculum to teach the essential skills of emotional intelligence in a program they call RULER. The name RULER comes from these essential skills: recognizing emotions in ourselves and in othersunderstanding the causes and consequences of our emotionslabeling, or naming label, our emotionsexpressing our emotions in a healthy wayand regulating our emotions effectively The RULER program is currently taught in hundreds of schools around the world, reaching thousands of students and educators.
  • Emotion mapping is a key part of the RULER approach, and Marc and his team have created a simple but highly effective tool called the Mood Meter. The Mood Meter uses a color-coded graph to help users identify their emotional state by placing it along two axes – pleasantness and energy. [CLICK]Each quadrant represents a particular dimension of emotional experience and allows an individual to plot the relative intensity and substance of their emotions along the axes. Ultimately, the goal of the tool is to help people improve their awareness of their emotions, build their skills in naming their emotions, and prompting them to decide whether they want to shift their mood. The tool is quite elegant in its simplicity.[FRED: prompt to audience to identify which quadrant describes their current mood, by show of hands]
  • As you can see, the Mood Meter is currently taught using a poster as a visual aid. Our project with Marc was to create a Mood Meter app that extends the use of the tool beyond the classroom and make it available to the general public. HopeLab’s role is to apply our user-centered design approach to help bring some of these ideas to life. High-quality design can create a delightful end-user experience that increases the likelihood that an intervention will stick.
  • I want to share with you one process that has been particularly helpful to us in this work.One of our design practices at HopeLab reframes choices in the development process to increase our options and help us make more informed decisions.  This process is actually included as a case study in the book “Decisive,” by Stanford’s Chip Heath and his brother Dan. The Heath brothers point out that, in making decisions, people often frame their choices too narrowly.  In app development, people typically document the requirements of the project, then hire a single designer to begin work, narrowing the range of design approaches they will see before engaging users for feedback.
  • We use a different approach that includes these three steps, which I will now describe in more detail.
  • Our first step is to shrink the scope of work.  Instead of starting with functionality deliverables, on our work on the Mood Meter, we started with the question, “How might the graph look and feel as a mobile app?”
  • Next, instead of hiring a single designer, we hired a number of designers and also used the crowd-sourced platform 99 Designs to get a diversity of choices.  As a result, we received more than 60 concepts representing a range of options to consider. We whittled our options down to 7 concepts, as you see here.
  • So now the challenge is to decide. In this step, we actually open ourselves up to the possibility that, rather than selecting a single design, there may be aspects of each concept we can mash up to produce a more ideal direction.  But how do you actually decide what will work and what won’t?
  • Ask your users! We put these 7 design concepts in front of teachers, students and other potential users to hear from them what they like what they don’t like, which is easier than asking them to imagine what they might like or not. Ultimately we surveyed more than 140 people to inform our decision.
  • And here’s the concept we ultimately chose.
  • Over the last couple of months, we’ve begun working with the designer of this concept to build out the experience from the product he delivered in that initial small scope of work.
  • JANXIN/FRED: add notes on why each is relevant to the YTH audience/interests
  • We hope these insights are useful to you.  We ourselves are in the midst of a number of exciting research and development projects with a variety of collaborators, and we’d be happy to share more about our work and the approaches we take during Q&A or in our Lunch Discussion. You can also engage with us on Twitter, Facebook or at our online community, ResilienceTech.org. Thank you!
  • Emotion Mapping - Tech for Youth Resilience (Presented at YTH Live 2014)

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