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The Science of Behavior Change


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The slides from my ATD ICE 2015 presentation on Behavior Change.

Published in: Design
  • Julie, Your slide show is fascinating. I am working on a project to retrain 110,000 staff in the field of developmental disabilities and we are experiencing difficulties motivating the experienced staff. I would like to discuss this problem with you. Also, with your permission, I would like to show your slides to a workgroup. Thank you, Perry Samowitz
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The Science of Behavior Change

  1. 1. THE SCIENCE OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE Julie Dirksen Usable Learning
  2. 2. Humans are funny…
  4. 4. In our ideal world, behavior change would work like this: •By the way, smoking is bad for you. Oh my goodness!You are right. I will never smoke again.
  5. 5. In our ideal world, behavior change would work like this: •You know, exercise is good for you. Absolutely! I will now go for a run.
  6. 6. I apparently can’t do a talk without the elephant: FromThe Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  7. 7. The Rider • Thinks logically • Controls impulses • Plans for the future • Uses conscious resources (Kahneman’s System 2)
  8. 8. The Elephant • Is concerned with what is happening now • Feels, rather than thinks • Is impulsive • Is automatic (Kahneman’s System 1)
  9. 9. The Elephant Here’s the thing: If there was only NOW, all these choices would be logical.
  10. 10. Planning for the future • Not entirely a human trait, but we seem to be the best at it. • Specifically, our riders are good at it. Western Scrub-Jay Image Credit: cc
  11. 11. So, if they have this framework: Future. Now! Now! Now! Noooooo ooooooo oow!
  12. 12. So, how do these two entities see the world? Rider (Future) Elephant (Now)
  13. 13. How would you like to go exercise? Rider (Future) Elephant (Now) That sounds like a great idea. If I work out hard, there will likely be some visible benefits in 6-8 weeks! That sounds awful. And, we need to save our energy for something important.
  14. 14. Would you like this donut? Rider (Future) Elephant (Now) Well, I would, but I’m really trying to eat better. Swimsuit season is coming up, you know. YES. Mmm, delicious.And you never know when calories will be available so you better grab them while you can.
  15. 15. Do you want to start working on that paper that’s due in a few weeks? Rider (Future) Elephant (Now) Absolutely! Getting a start on that will make it much less stressful. What? Of course not. There are Facebook posts to read RIGHT NOW.
  16. 16. We decide differently for our future selves: How much nasty stuff would you drink? How long would you wait for a reward? Pronin et al 2008
  17. 17. Variables that influence the Elephant • How big is the reward in relation to the effort? • How immediate is the reward? • How tangible is the reward? Big! Now! Real!
  18. 18. So, let’s check this out:
  19. 19. Hyperbolic Discounting Image Credit:
  20. 20. How to use this: Saving for Retirement Would you rather? Give up 10% of your paycheck to savings right now? Or would you rather? Give up half of your next few raises until you are at 15%? Example from Nudge, by RichardThaler and Cass Sunstein
  21. 21. Tangibility matters What’s the consequence of smoking?
  22. 22. Making choices a bit less tangible and immediate: “in seven weeks, NewYork Googlers consumed 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms” Source
  23. 23. Source
  24. 24. Effort Reward Hmm…. Hmm…. vs.
  25. 25. So let’s look at a few examples: Managers need to use the new performance evaluation system, which has several new evaluation categories. How does the elephant view: • Size of the reward • Tangibility of the reward • Immediacy of the reward
  26. 26. So let’s look at a few examples: Salespeople need to switch from product-based selling, to a consultative sales approach. How does the elephant view: • Size of the reward • Tangibility of the reward • Immediacy of the reward
  27. 27. So let’s look at a few examples: Project Managers have access to a new risk- analysis tool they can use during the project planning process. How does the elephant view: • Size of the reward • Tangibility of the reward • Immediacy of the reward
  28. 28. What happens when there’s a conflict? PrepareTax Information Watch Game of Thrones
  29. 29. But The rider can drag the elephant along, but… Shiv and Fedorikhin 1999 Heart and Mind in Conflict:The Interplay of Affect andCognition in Consumer Decision Making
  30. 30. When there’s no conflict, there’s no problem: Gardening! Gardening!
  31. 31. So what can we do about this? • Size of the reward • Tangibility of the reward • Immediacy of the reward
  32. 32. Increase the size of the reward? • Sometimes you can’t • Extrinsic rewards are problematic
  33. 33. Tangibility and immediacy of the reward • Have a more visceral experience • Make the reward visible
  34. 34. Tangible experience:
  35. 35. How can learning be more tangible? • Role plays • Simulations • Trials • Observations • Tinkering
  36. 36. Knowledge vs. Belief Believes Knows
  37. 37. TheTrolley Problem Anyone familiar with the Trolley Problem? Phillippa Foot, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Joshua Greene
  38. 38. Enter Joshua Greene Greene et al 2001
  39. 39. Do you know, or do you believe?
  40. 40. Make it more visible
  41. 41. Visible Progress: From PerfectTime-Based Productivity by FrancisWade
  42. 42. Make it Easier: Defaults Johnson and Goldstein 2003
  43. 43. Make it easier: Have the script ready Implementation Intentions: If X happens, I will do Y. Gollwitzer, 1999
  44. 44. We use other people as cues for how to act
  45. 45. Social norming Examples: • Environmental behaviors • Tax compliance • Binge drinking • Teen Smoking
  46. 46. Should you order wine with dinner?
  47. 47. Opinion Leaders,Testimonials, Success Stories
  48. 48. Ways to help • Make it more tangible / visceral / experiential • Create more immediate / visible feedback • Make it easier • Creating a script • Create belief (using experience or emotion) • Make it social • Make success stories visible Performance Evaluations Consultative Selling New RiskAnalysisTool
  49. 49. Questions? Julie Dirksen Twitter: usablelearning Design For How People Learn
  50. 50. References • Haidt, Jonathan.The Happiness Hypothesis • Raby, C. R., et al. (2007). Planning for the future by western scrub-jays. Nature 445: 919-921. • Suddendorf,T. & Busby, J. (2003). Mental time travel in animals?TrendsCog. Sci. 7: 391-396. • Pronin, E et al. (2008) Doing Unto Future Selves AsYou Would Do UntoOthers: Psychological Distance and Decision Making. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc. • report.pdf • Johnson, Eric and DanielGoldstein. Do Defaults Save Lives 21 NOVEMBER 2003VOL 302 SCIENCE • overhauled-eating-options-nudge/story?id=18241908 • Shiv and Fedorikhin 1999 Heart and Mind in Conflict:The Interplay of Affect andCognition in Consumer Decision Making • detail.htm?key=17545#.VVgAU_lViko • Social norm links: what-are-they-doing-over-there/ • • Productivity-protect-increase/dp/1505408091 •,%20P.%20 M.,%20&%20Oettingen,%20G.%20(2013).%20In%20%20 M.%20Gellman%20&%20J.%20R.%20Turner%20(Eds.).pdf