The Digitization of Psychology

An assumption is often made that knowledge can or will bring about change in human behavior. That viewpoint ignores the reality that emotions play a major role in changing behavior because there are so many knots in the wood of human nature.

In my interview of Amy Bucher, I asked her about live experts vs. avatars vs. chatbots. For consumers interacting with a digital product online, which of these three approaches is most successful in effecting change?

What her research suggests is that avatars serve as an ideal middle ground between a mechanistic approach (chatbots) and a costly, fully human approach (live experts). Why? The answer lies in emotions. By using an avatar’s face on screen, an intimate enough connection is simulated. At the same time, online users don’t feel at risk of being condescended to by a live expert. In other words, the emotion of trust—of being shown respect—gives the nod to avatars, and a reason for live experts to improve their EQ skills.

The Psychology of Using Design to Motivate Change

Released today: episode #30 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Amy Bucher, the author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Amy Bucher, PhD, works in Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow and previously worked at CVS Health and Johnson & Johnson. She received her A.B. from Harvard University and her M.A. and PhD in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan.

This episode addresses both the barriers and levers to achieving behavioral change. Among the barriers are cognitive biases, like a Status Quo Bias, as well as growing both emotionally and mentally exhausted by changes that require too much willpower on behalf of the user. Opportunities to promote change include having accountability buddies to help guide you, and avatars that have proven highly effective in providing information in a trust-building, nonjudgmental manner.

Heading into the Storm

Implicit association tests (IATs) suggest a bias in America favoring Whites over people of color

With the Election next Tuesday, America is about to see how well the “glue” holds. Can our courts and police forces provide a sense of justice being impartially served? Or will we descend into bleak partisan chaos if the voting is close?

My concerns focus on the political divide between Democrats and Republicans with regard to the Supreme Court. A majority of the current Supreme Court Justices were appointed by presidents George W. Bush, Jr. and Donald Trump, who both lost the popular vote. Chief Justice John Roberts, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett were all part of the legal team that aided Bush in the fight to count or not count votes in Florida. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in Bush’s favor and the Florida recount ceased, giving the Presidential victory to Bush.

Recently the Washington Post reported that white nationalists were attempting to infiltrate law enforcement . Since wide-spread racial bias seems to exist across our society, aided by stereotypes, what are the odds these extremists could find fertile soil, at times, in trying to recruit allies that give them elbowroom? 

Let’s hope for the best. But if legal maneuvering delivers an Electoral College victory to Trump, despite Joe Biden winning the popular vote, protests could erupt that will make the Black Lives Matter marches seem tame by comparison. Then how will the police respond?  Will fears of racial strife, lost lives and looting make the perversion of democracy seem like the lesser “evil”? Over the next days and weeks leading up to Inauguration Day in January, we’re about to find out.

How to Promote Peace in the Streets

Released today: episode #26 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Thomas Abt, the author of Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence – and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the StreetsListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Abt is widely considered to be America’s foremost expert on the use of evidence-informed approaches to reduce urban violence. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice in Washington, DC. Prior to the Council, he held posts at Harvard University and in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Other media outlets that have covered Abt’s work include the Atlantic, the Economist, Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio.

In this episode, the topics range from the human and economic costs of violence, to how a focus on a limited number of bad people, bad places and bad behaviors can improve situations that may otherwise look hopeless. The interview’s final question raises the specter of whether police bias in favor of gun-toting white vigilantes could ever become a serious issue or not.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.