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Empathy for the future self: An interview with Amy Bucher

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Gerry Gaffney

This is Gerry Gaffney with the User Experience podcast.

My guest today is a psychologist with a PhD from the university of Michigan. She is vice president of behaviour change design at mad power in Boston. She focuses on crafting, engaging and motivating experiences that help people change behaviours that contribute to physical, mental, and financial health and wellbeing.

I’ve just finished reading her excellent book Engaged: Designing for Behaviour Change.

Amy Bucher, welcome to the user experience podcast.

Amy Bucher

Thank you so much for having me. This is a real delight.

Gerry

I must say that with all the focus on what you refer to in the book as an “arms race for most time on screen,” it’s really refreshing to read a book that’s as positively framed as yours. Why did you write the book?

Amy

So I guess I have a few different ways I could answer this. The easiest one is that I think I do a very interesting subspecialty of UX, this behaviour change design focus, and I’ve found over the years since it’s become my career and I’ve started speaking, you know, at local UXPA events and those sorts of things that I get a number of people who are, especially early in their career, or maybe looking to transition and expand their skill set, who reach out to me and ask about behaviour change design. And historically, I’ve always tried to make time to have those conversations and do the one-on-one conversation about, you know, how can you given your background and your experience build this into your skill set. But I really wanted there to be a resource that I could point people to instead of, you know, the non-scalable investment of my time over and over in these conversations.

So part of my goal in writing the book was to basically have a handbook or a resource that I could give to people who work in other UX specialties, and it would be positioned to help them learn some of these skills for their own craft. So that was, that was kind of a main reason, but where you mentioned the arms race for most time on screen, I think it speaks to one of the more emotional reasons I had for writing the book, which is that I have developed a very particular position around the ethics of the type of design work that I do and how we should use this powerful tool kit in a responsible way to help people. And so by creating my own book, it was a way to also enshrine that position, you know, to make sure the advice that I’m giving the toolkit that I’m giving is positioned in such a way where the intent is really to help people and to help them reach their goals as opposed to advancing an organization’s goals or a product’s goals, which oftentimes really are I want to be the thing that the user spends the most time with whether or not that’s actually good for them.

Gerry

I guess it’s a bit, a bit of an ethical minefield and probably in popular consciousness, I guess, behaviour change probably goes to Thaler and Sunstein’s work on Nudge and that’s very quickly got politicized, didn’t it?

Amy

Yeah. Although interestingly, I mean, I know you know, Richard Thaler is a professor of economics and Cass Sunstein actually has worked in the government. So it’s not, it’s not that surprising, I think their roots are actually quite political but I don’t know that they necessarily intended that book to be used as such.

Gerry

What motivates people to their behaviour and how can we help them to do so?

Amy

Yeah, so people are motivated for all different sorts of reasons to change their behaviour. And one of the first tasks ahead of a behaviour change designer is to understand for a particular user or group of users, what those reasons might be. We know from the self determination theory of motivation, that the types of things that people are motivated by can be arranged along a continuum. And essentially it goes from things that are most external to the person that so things like punishments or rewards or expectations of other people, and those tend to be poor sources of motivation in terms of their sustainability. It’s pretty easy to eventually justify not doing a behaviour, if your only reasons are external to yourself. And then at the other end of the continuum, we have the very deeply personal reasons there is, you know, purely intrinsic motivation where something’s enjoyable and feels good, but then alongside that we have you know, supporting our values, our most deeply held values, living into the identity of the type of person we believe we are and want to be, advancing really personal goals that we might have for ourselves and for our families.

And so as a designer, the thing that I’m always trying to do is to understand what those personal things are that my users might be thinking about. And whether it’s me understanding them in enough detail to actually speak to that in the design, or just me providing almost like rhetorical questions and prompts to get the user thinking about it and drawing those connections. That’s where you can really start to see people make that connection like, Oh, these behaviours will actually help me do something I care about. Not just something that, you know, this product is telling me to do. But you know, everybody has those sorts of personal reasons. And they’re, the nice thing about not necessarily knowing what it is for any individual person is there are a limited number of categories of things that people tend to be motivated by, you know, people care about other people. So there’s usually a family or a community sort of motivation that you can draw on. People are often motivated by some sort of success or growth or, you know, excelling at their work. So if you, if you know what those broad categories are, you can at least take an educated guess about what your users might be interested in doing.

Gerry

Now, I know this is rather a big question, well it’s short question, but big answer I suspect. Can you describe a typical behaviour change project, if such a thing exists?

Amy

Yeah, you’re right that it’s a big question even though it’s short. I’d say one thing, and we we’ve wrestled with this a little bit at Mad*Pow because we actually do all different types of projects and sometimes we’re put in a position to decide, is this one where we say we really need to do behaviour change? Or is it one where that skill set is not necessary to achieve the results that our client is hoping for? And it’s a little bit difficult because a lot of things that we say we don’t need behaviour change design for do involve a behaviour. So something like buying a new washing machine, that’s a behaviour, but it’s not really, you know, you don’t really have to tackle thorny motivational issues to get to that behaviour. And so one of our first steps is really identifying, you know, is this a highly contextualized behaviour that might be difficult for somebody to do where there’s real value in thinking about what their motivation might be, and in designing something that connects with that to guide them through some of the challenges that they might face. And oftentimes those behaviours also happen to have really high impact. So a lot of our work is in healthcare and we might be looking at behaviour changes that lead to lower incidence of disease or lower spending in the healthcare system. So there’s kind of these very big consequential outcomes associated with it. Beyond that, once we’ve identified that a project involves a behaviour that is significant enough to require this sort of focus, we try to use a four-step process. And I say try to because as consultants, we collaborate with our clients and sometimes they’ll come to us and they’ll have part of that process covered already. They’ll say we would love you to do foundational research in your diagnosis phase, but once you’ve presented those results to us, we are happy to carry it through the rest of the product development process without you.

So that happens a lot of times, but if we’re given, you know, end-to-end control over the project, we follow four phases. So we do our diagnosis first, which is really understanding in a foundational way what the problem space is. We do primary research in that phase, we will do a literature review and particularly looking at the peer reviewed behaviour change literature to see what other researchers have done. Once we have a good sense of the problem space, we’ll move on to what we call our prescription phase. And that’s where we really start generating solutions and ideas grounded in what we’ve understood to be the problem. And so typically here, we might do some research that involves having users respond to concepts and see which ones might resonate, which ones might connect with their understanding of the problem and appeal to them as potential solutions.

Once we have winnowed down onto a narrow, you know, basically requirements document, we’ve figured out what it is we’re going to build, we move into execution, which is where we build it. And I will say personally, I don’t have a traditional design skill set. So I’m typically involved in more of a consultatory position in this stage, working with visual designers and interaction designers and app developers, just to see that the requirements are translated with fidelity.

And then finally we have our evaluation phase, which is where our product hopefully is now in the wild, in some capacity. And we’re monitoring it to see that the outcomes it’s producing are what we hoped for. And I always bristle a little bit that we present it as a linear phase, and I don’t know the solution to fix that, but that, that phase at the end of the evaluation, it really should run throughout all the rest of it because we’re not just evaluating it just at the one time at the end, it’s really about iterating and going through product cycles. So we very often will learn something in that evaluation that we take into another prescription phase, for example, where we start to generate new concepts or upgrades to what’s already there, that address some of what maybe isn’t working or could be working better.

Gerry

It pretty much echoes, I guess, you know what people will be familiar with it in a traditional UX project, I guess, but some of the terminology is different in some of the activities you carry out are different. One thing that I noticed within the book is that you’ve got quite a strong focus on people doing that academic research. So going the journals, and that’s something that to my mind is frequently lacking in the UX world. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Amy

Yeah. And I agree actually, cause I think that we collaborate really well with people in other UX specialties because so many of our frameworks are well aligned. A lot of our activities are pretty similar, but that literature review is one that I’ve found to be pretty consistently different. And I think part of it is just the training. You know, I have a PhD in psychology. I came through this academic training and it was unexpected everyday part of my approach that I would be going to databases and pulling original research articles. And I was trained in how to read and interpret them as well, which for people who don’t have, you know, a science background from a kind of formal educational institution that that can be a hard skill to learn. So I do find that to be a difference. And I think there’s a trick to translating it as well, because I will sort of like asterisk and put off to the side. There are a lot of people who are working to change this, but historically you’ve, you’ve basically had silos where academics are doing their academic research and they are thinking about how to advance the body of capital-K Knowledge. You know, the things that we know about people and how they work, but not necessarily thinking about the practical application of it. And then people in the product world who are very much about, you know, let’s get a product to market, let’s make sure that people like it, it makes people happy and it achieves certain objectives. And the two worlds haven’t historically spoken to each other on a regular basis. That is changing but in the meantime, part of the trick of doing the literature review is to read these articles, this knowledge that was not necessarily generated for the purposes of informing product development and thinking through the, so what, so, okay, we’ve learned this sort of fundamental piece of knowledge about human motivation. As product designers, so what? So I think that’s a big piece of the puzzle that I would bring to a project as the behaviour change designer.

Gerry

Yeah. The book is full of practical advice too, one of the bits that I really liked was you talk about if people have difficulty getting access to a particular publication in a journal that they should send an email to the author or authors. And you know, that little snippet of information can be so useful to people. I think I did notice in the book, whenever you spoke about randomized control trials, there was kind of an air of wistfulness. It was kind of like Amy doesn’t get to do to do these proper RCTs anymore. I mean, very few people in UX would be able to do that, right?

Amy

It’s true. They’re extremely expensive to put together. And in all honesty, they they’re considered the gold standard in terms of showing that a product has an effect or not, but they don’t mimic their real world use of a product. And so in that sense, they are also limited. I have some colleagues who, you know, similar to me have the academic background, and I think we’ve all talked ourselves into believing that it’s okay, that we don’t get to do a lot of RCTs anymore because the real world application is how people will actually encounter our products. But yeah, I think it’s just the you know, the bells and whistles around designing a really good randomized control trial and executing it are far beyond what most product organizations are in a to do. So no, I don’t get to do them much anymore.

Gerry

Now there are a few concepts in the book that may be new to people in the UX field. One that was kind of new to me and it was the behaviour change wheel. Can you tell us about that?

Amy

Yeah. So this model comes from the university college of London, and it’s one of my favourite things that I think I’ve learned in the last several years. So the model isn’t that old it’s only been around for, I’m not even quite 10 years yet. And the researchers essentially did a massive literature review of over 1200 studies about behaviour change to create a taxonomy of what the barriers that exist to behaviours are and then what the solutions to those barriers can be. And so the behaviour change wheel starts with the barriers and the acronym to understand them is COM-B, where B as the behaviour and the barriers can be classed as either capability, opportunity or motivation. And then once you know, what the barriers are, you can essentially, I describe it as a decision tree. You can follow the lines and say, Oh, okay, there’s a psychological capability barrier to this behaviour. People don’t understand how they’re supposed to do this.

Well, according to this model, which is backed up by all of this evidence, the types of interventions that can be effective in this case are, you know, education, training, modelling. And in that way, you can start to winnow down the sets of solutions that you’re going to look at. So I think of it as a model that first of all really helps to organize research in a way that makes it a useful input to product design. But then secondly, I think of it as a way to reduce some of the risk and what we’re doing, because if we’ve identified the outcomes we want, if we know that we want our users to be doing a certain thing, we’ve conducted this research, well, we basically have a roadmap now that tells us maybe not, you know, the street and house number to look in, but the city, so it narrows down the set of possibilities in a way that makes our work a little bit easier and increases the confidence that we’ll get to the right results.

Gerry

Another term in the book, and I don’t know if it’s related to decision tree is choice architecture. Can you tell us about that?

Amy

Yeah. And actually it’s funny, cause you mentioned you know, nudge earlier Thaler and Sunstein, this term really comes from behavioural economics as well, where the way that you present your users with opportunities, with choices, I was trying not to repeat the word, but it is the word, the way that you present that, the way that you structure it can guide people to an easier time or not. And you can also structure it so that they are more likely to choose a particular option over others, which is where a lot of the behavioural economics tactics come in, because there’s this sense of, as experts, we know what might be better for people or for society. So, you know, organ donation is an example that you see used a lot. And I believe there’s been great success with this in European countries where instead of asking people to opt into it… So they’re on the form and the question is phrased as, do you want to do this? Yes or no. If you say, if you don’t answer or you say no, you’re not an organ donor, that’s the opt out, it’s phrased the other way. So basically the easiest thing to do is opt in. That’s an example of a choice architecture.

And so I think as designers, we have all of these opportunities where we need to curate the choices that we’re providing to people, offering them unlimited choice is paralysing to them and not feasible for us as designers typically. We can’t really, you know, give people infinite choices on how to behave within our product or our service. So we want to curate those for people and we need to do a good job of offering them options that ultimately will all be in service of the user’s outcomes. So that is a really interesting part of the process of sort of figuring out all the possibilities we might offer somebody and then curating them down to a set of only good options.

Gerry

And of course, when you talk about curation, it leads one naturally to think about trust and trust is such a huge part of behaviour change, isn’t it? And I wonder, you know, how do we establish trust? And how do we make sure that we don’t break it?

Amy

Yeah. You know, someone today just sent me a quote and I, I can’t remember who said it, but it said, you know, trust comes in on foot and leaves on horseback and I think that’s so right.

Gerry

Andy Kirk quotes it in a Data Visualisation.

Amy

Oh, it was you, wasn’t it?

Gerry

Yeah.

Amy

[Laughter.] Oh my gosh. That’s so embarrassing and also funny.

Yeah. I think that’s such a perfect quote though, because it’s true. It’s so hard to earn trust and it’s so easy to lose it. And once you’ve lost it, it’s really, really hard to regain. You know, I, I think of the Facebook example all the time. And of course there are lots of people who still trust Facebook, but typically people who pay attention to the news and understand some of what’s happened with various, you know, I won’t even say data breaches, data agreements over the years are far more wary of Facebook now. And I think it’s, if they ever want to regain that, it’s gonna take a lot.

I mean, establishing trust, there’s two pieces to it in my view. So one of them is really living into it. So, you know, protecting people’s data, doing all the technological stuff you need to do to fit people’s expectations of how their data should be used. If you make a promise about not sharing people’s information with a third party, you actually keep it. And, you know, that’s an opportunity to not lose somebody’s trust. And to me it feels so easy to do that, but obviously, you know, Facebook is an example where they had an opportunity to, you know, reuse their database or make some of their data available for profit to other companies. And of course they update the terms and conditions, but realistically their users aren’t kept in the loop about that. Their users don’t understand what that means. And so it sets up the situation where later on, they discover what’s happened and they feel betrayed even if they did technically agree to it because it wasn’t something that was part of their expectations. So the first piece is to actually do the trustworthy thing, but the second piece is to communicate to your users that you’re deserving of trust.

So there’s lots of ways to do that. One of the things that is really important in my work, because I tend, as I said to work on that have to do with healthcare and then also financial services, two fields where expertise matters a lot is actually being open with users about the source of a lot of the materials that we’ve built. So if we’ve had physicians who’ve helped us craft a behaviour change product we’re actually open about that when we can be. You know, Hey, Dr. So-And-So is one of the authors of this, and this is a really highly qualified person who’s done all these great things or with financial services if we’re working on something like an investment product, here’s the evidence that this approach is going to help you, you know, do well with your money, which is an incredibly consequential thing for people. And some of it is also about showing other users who have had good experiences. So that whole celebrity endorsement thing, it feels a little cheesy, but the reason for it is it helps people feel trust if somebody that they respect or they like has had a good experience with the product, it helps them to form this expectation that they can as well. So really leveraging other people’s experiences can go a long way in establishing trust.

Gerry

You talk in the book in a few places about applying some of the principles or practices from cognitive behaviour therapy, CBT, can you talk a little about that please?

Amy

Yeah. So cognitive behavioural therapy is a clinical approach and I’m not a clinician. So even though I have a PhD I was trained in a research discipline, not a clinical discipline, but more on the job as I’ve had the opportunity to work with other professionals who are clinicians and to understand this approach, it has a lot of utility in behaviour change broadly, not just in a psychotherapy context. The idea is that the things that we think drive the way that we feel and the way that we behave. And a lot of times, as we know, and actually this, this aligns really well with behavioural economics and the idea of nudges as well. We have cognitive biases, we have cognitive distortions. We do not always perceive the world in a truly objective way. And so we may believe something that isn’t really well grounded in reality, but it’s causing us a lot of distress and prompting behaviours that are not the best for our goals and for the way that we, you know, move through life.

And so with CBT, what we do is we ask people to identify what their beliefs about the world, the situation, the behaviour, whatever the case is, to identify what those beliefs are, and then to interrogate them to figure out, is this something that’s really true or is this, you know, you having a worst case scenario, doomsday thinking pattern. Do you actually have evidence that that person is angry at you or you were just afraid that they might be? Once we can get people to think critically about some of these perceptions they have of the world. Usually the first thing it does is alleviate some of those negative emotions, which is really unpleasant for people and gets in the way of thinking creatively and problem solving, but it can often prompt them to engage in healthier or more effective behaviours as well. So that example of if you think somebody is mad at you, well, okay, what’s the evidence for that>

And even if that person is mad at you, if you can kind of interrogate that thought in a way that makes it feel a little bit less upsetting in the moment it opens the door for you to go talk to the person and say, Hey, are you actually mad at me? And then that leads hopefully to a productive dialogue, as opposed to you being at home, being like, Oh, you know, I would talk to them, but I’m afraid that they’re upset and I don’t want to have a fight, so I’m just going to hold back. You can see how that could perpetuate and sort of end with a much worse result. So you know, I find CBT as an approach is really, really helpful when we talk about behaviour change. And again, especially in health where a lot of the behaviours that we’re trying to encourage are getting people to stop avoiding something. You know, you want to start an exercise program. Well, I’m afraid I’ll be bad at it. I’m afraid I will be sore all the time.

And that reminds me too. Another piece of it is saying like, okay, sometimes these bad thoughts are true. If you start an exercise program, you probably are going to be pretty sore. Like the first couple of times you work out, it’s going to hurt. But so what, let’s talk about the so what, and sometimes you can get people to feel less afraid of the consequences, sort of a, you know, demystify, de-fang that scary idea.

Gerry

It’s interesting how people frequently entrust avatar as our other digital representations with information that they wouldn’t impart to a human.

Amy

Yeah. That’s been kind of a theme of my career actually, because a lot of the products that I’ve worked on over the years involved self-report of health data. And so like for a number of years, I was working in a business-to-business environment where we were selling the product to you know, human resources teams or you know, teams in hospital systems who were in charge of kind of patient behaviour change stuff. And they would frequently say, how do you know people are being truthful to you? You’re telling us you have these great outcomes, but how do you know? And so we would do research where we were purchase third party, like pharmacy databases, for example, if we were looking at medication adherence and then we’d have to hire another third party to basically de-identify the two data sets, unite them and re-de-identify them so we could do our analysis.

And we found that pretty consistently actually people were being truthful when they self reported to these digital programs, even about things like medication adherence, where there’s a really clear demand characteristic where you know you’re supposed to take your medication. So I feel like that has been a theme. And now there’s more research that’s showing that that’s consistently true. And it just makes a lot of sense to me for a number of reasons. The one that I talk about the most is that it’s easier to trust a machine sometimes when you’re talking about something that you feel vulnerable about, because there’s no face looking at you, there’s no facial expression that can register disappointment or, you know, no chance that the computer is going to tell you that you should have done it differently. The way that, you know, I’ve had the experience, I think most people have of sitting in a doctor’s appointment and telling my physician something. And even if they restrain themselves, you can sometimes see the flicker of how they actually feel about that. And that can be a really, really hard thing to feel. So people, I think sometimes are dishonest or hold back or edit the truth a little bit to avoid having that moment. So that’s piece of it. But I also think a piece of it is that the digital medium gives people a little bit of time to reflect. So sometimes when you’re asked something in a face-to-face setting and you only have a few seconds to come up with your answer, you may not be as accurate just because you’re trying to be quick. But with the digital medium, one thing that we end up having to do a lot, or we uncover in our research is that we might be asking people questions that they cannot accurately answer without some guidance.

I mean, dietary stuff, nutrition stuff is a huge example because often the questions will be like, okay, how many servings of vegetables do you eat a day? If you’re asked that by a physician, in an office in a 15 minute appointment, you’re just going to kind of blurt out a number and it may or may not relate to what you’re actually eating, but if you have time at your computer, and there’s an example of, this is what a serving of vegetable looks like. You have a little bit more time to gather that answer and hopefully get closer to the truth. So I think it’s a combination of the emotional component of it, but also just giving people that time to be accurate

Gerry

And on the emotional component. On the other hand, you say in the book anthropomorphize to the max or something to that to that effect, isn’t that somewhat called contradictory?

Amy

I don’t think it is because typically people understand even with very realistic avatars or technology, that they are still talking to a machine, but I’m always marvelling at how human beings are built to create these social relationships, even with things that they understand are not human. So kind of at the easy end of the spectrum is pets. You know, animals like people have these very close… I have pets and Lord knows the conversations I have with them are not logical because they can’t understand me. But as a human being, I find myself just, you know, having this relationship and this connection, but all the way down to the other end of the scale, you know, people have these affectionate feelings for objects, for avatars, for things on the screen that they know full well are not human. And it’s just because we’re wired that way.

Gerry

The lovely phrase in the book that you used, you said “making apparent the future self.” Tell me about that.

Amy

Yeah. I actually think this is one of the biggest problems in behaviour change design or behaviour change writ large is that a lot of these really complex, highly contextualized behaviour changes that we want people to make involve sacrifice in the short term for long-term gain. And I would even say uncertain long-term gains. So, you know, again, working in health, many times, we’re looking at something like we want to reduce your risk of a heart attack or of cancer. We want to make it so that you are not going to the emergency room as often over the next one, three, five years. Those sorts of things are sort of far off and because it’s reducing probability in a lot of cases, we actually don’t know for sure that we’re at, we’re achieving it. You know, 10 years from now, the person may have a heart attack or not.

But do we know for sure that they would’ve? Not really, so that that’s a difficult thing for people to wrap their heads around. And then coupled with that, the things we’re asking people to do are usually things that involve some unpleasantness. We want you to eat less bacon. You know, we want you to not be on the couch. We want you to be working towards the 5k. You’re going to take this medication every day, which means you have, you know, even if there aren’t very many side effects or no side effects at all, it’s still another thing to remember, like another small burden in probably an already busy day. And so I think a big trick of behaviour change is to help people feel more empathy and connection with that future self who’s going to benefit from the things that they’re doing today. And there’s all kinds of things that you can do to sort of humanize this idea of the future self.

You know, another thing people do is they tend to think that their future self is going to be in much better shape in all sorts of ways than they are today. So like, Oh yeah, I’ll be ready to do that. I can commit to that big project. Or I think I put in the book, cause I do this all the time, I’ll sign up for running races and I’ll think like, Oh yeah, I’ll be totally trained by that date. And I won’t be bothered to have to get up at 5:00 AM because, I don’t know. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I think I’ll be a different person than I am right now. [Laughter.] And, you know, inevitably the date rolls around and I may have trained, but it was hard and unpleasant and I’m still not happy about getting up early. So we, we you know, I think there’s this trick of how do I understand that the future self is not only like a real person, but me like that emotional tether needs to be a little bit brighter and tighter in order to help people first of all, feel like the things they’re doing now are worth it. So I’m gonna benefit. And I will say even with the race example, like, yes, it’s unpleasant to get up early in the morning and go stand in that starting line corral. But I usually feel pretty great when I finish and pretty glad that past me signed current me up for it. So it’s, it’s about making that connection.

Gerry

Yeah. You’ve got an example in the book, a very negative one. It’s a picture of yourself as envisaged by a piece of software that should you, should you be a smoker and continue to smoke heavily until you’re I don’t know, 60 or 70 or something? And it’s a, it’s not a, not a very pleasant appearance, is it?

Amy

No, no. And what I thought was really funny about that, I actually, I didn’t think it was a well done example. There’s all these examples of technology that can basically age you, show you older versions of yourself. There are examples that have been used in health. There used to be a company called Medical Avatar, and I’m not sure if they’re still in business or not, but they were doing very cool stuff with realistic 3D imaging of people that showed how they might look, if they’d made certain adjustments to their diet and exercise and other health factors over a course of years. And they had done some trials that showed that it was pretty effective at helping people do those short term changes. And then there’s also research that shows that if you age photographs of people while they’re making retirement investment choices, they will be, they’ll basically make choices that are more advantageous to that future self. So they’ll sacrifice more now for the future self.

But the thing with that smoking app is it actually didn’t ask me anything about my current smoking behaviours. I’m actually not a smoker and it didn’t give me the opportunity to say that or, you know, to indicate that I might be a social smoker or whatever the case may be. It just sort of assumed that I was a heavy smoker and showed me what I would look like in 20 years if I continued to be one. And so it was, I don’t know, it felt like a missed opportunity to maybe make that emotional connection feel more realistic.

Gerry

Should, every UX practitioner develop proficiency in behaviour change design?

Amy

So selfishly here, I’m going to say no. And I have actually said this before. I think with the book, what I wanted to do was to raise awareness of the behaviour change design toolkit, and make some of it accessible to everybody. I really do believe that some of the activities that are part of behaviour change design can be operationalized by any UX professional, even things like the literature review. You know, I talked about how some of that material may not be as easy to read for people who aren’t trained in it, but it’s still, it’s still something that they could do and incorporate into their practice. But the other piece that I hope is that people who’ve read the book will recognize when there might be a need to bring in somebody who has more of an expertise in this area, because I sometimes see that as a miss, you know, people who read a couple books or they go to a weekend boot camp and then they think they know behaviour change. And so they get in over their heads in these projects that have really…

Gerry

That’s how UX’ers roll, Amy.

Amy

I know, I know, but the behaviour change part of it is kind of new. And I think it’s a… you can learn a single behaviour change approach in a bootcamp. Like if there’s a specific thing you wanted to learn, but I think to go to, you know, a three- or four-day session and walk away saying, I know how to do behaviour change. It’s just a really broad and rich field where there there’s no way you could possibly learn all of it. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years and I’m still learning things all the time. So that was sort of, my objective is to help people recognize when they may need to collaborate with experts in addition to making some parts of the toolkit accessible to them.

Gerry

And there was a rather ambitious suggestion towards the end of the book that one should buy a copy of the book for everybody in the team, I thought that was pushing it. It’s so full of useful insights. So I’d certainly recommend it. One copy per team, I think would, would be adequate rather than copy of per person in the team. [Laughter.]

Amy

Yeah. You know, you have to take your shots when you got them, right?

Gerry

Yeah.

I’ll remind listeners that Amy’s book is called Engaged: Designing for Behaviour Change. You can use the code uxpod to get a 20% discount at the Rosenfeld Media website. And as usual there will be a transcript of this episode at uxpod.com.

Amy Bucher, thanks so much for joining me today on the User Experience podcast.

Amy

Thank you for having me, Gerry.

Gerry GaffneyEmpathy for the future self: An interview with Amy Bucher

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