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10 Behavioral Scientists You Should Know. ALINE HOLZWARTH

Behavioral science is increasingly being applied outside university laboratories to industry settings, making an impact in the real world. I had the opportunity to interview ten leaders paving the path for applied behavioral science, and have compiled them here.

These ten behavioral scientists are shining examples of impact in health, their work spanning from experimentation to implementation. From Katy Milkman’s massive tests to increase vaccination rates to Neela Saldanha’s efforts to alleviate global poverty, these leading behavioral scientists are making the change they want to see in the world.

On top of their impressive work, these behavioral scientists are interesting people! In their interviews, they share insights that go beyond their research, from random “fun facts” to the fiction book they would recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare. …


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It’s not ‘news’ that handwashing prevents the spread of disease, from the common cold to the novel coronavirus. But it might take a bit of creativity to transform our best intentions to keep our hands clean into the act of regular handwashing. Behavioral scientists weigh in on strategies to do just this. DPA/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES.

The need for handwashing isn’t new in this time of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but it is more important now than ever that we keep our hands clean to prevent the continued spread of the virus. We all know we should wash our hands regularly in order to achieve this, but intention doesn’t necessarily translate into action. And given the shockingly low historic rate of handwashing in general (an average adherence of 38.7% among healthcare workers according to the World Health Organization), it seems fair to say that we don’t wash our hands as reliably as we know we should. …


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In her Science of Well-Being digital health program, Professor Laurie Santos recommends practicing and tracking your signature strengths, savoring, gratitude, kindness, social connection, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, and time affluence. GETTY.

Whether you are directly or indirectly affected by the COVID-19 viral disease, you may be feeling down as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. There are many solutions out there to help lift your spirits, but not all are backed by research in behavioral science, nor specifically by evidence from the study of happiness and well-being. …


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With a fresh start, the new you can be the kind of person who works out with an online Zumba instructor three times a week from your very own backyard. GETTY IMAGES.

Feeling glum as you trudge through the COVID-19 quarantine haze? That’s okay. You’ve probably fallen into a funk like everyone else, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you had any sort of exercise or healthy diet routine before the pandemic, it has likely fizzled out by now, disrupted by the stay-at-home orders and general sense of doom. Speaking only for myself, certain allowances have been made in recent weeks (let’s just say that Swiss chocolate and shortbread are involved) — allowances that would normally be entirely off-limits or saved for very special occasions.

You know that you could start exercising again, getting back into good habits. You could eliminate lunch dessert. But what’s going to make you? Now that my gym is closed and my running club is indefinitely paused, who will force me to exercise? You (and I) might need what researchers call a fresh start: wipe the slate clean and start over as the new and improved you. …


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Social norms shift as potential beachgoers stay home. A view of the empty Santa Monica beach at sunset due to the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Santa Monica, United States on March 27, 2020. ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES.

For the 90% of Americans now ordered to stay home (up from 20% just a week ago ) to stave off the risk of catching and spreading the novel coronavirus, keeping a strict distance from others is beginning to feel like the new normal. Every other conversation is peppered with observations from friends, family and coworkers on how much has changed in such little time, and how easily we have found ourselves slipping into new patterns. …


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Emergency reserve goals help people aim high, but forgive their slips. PHOTO BY SKITTERPHOTO FROM PEXELS

Aim for the stars, they say. Set realistic goals, they say. But which is it? Actually, this is a trick question — according to research in behavioral science, the answer is “both.” Researchers Marissa Sharif and Suzanne Shu find that a different kind of goal, emergency reserve goals, can be more motivating and more likely to lead to success than either hard goals or easy goals. Emergency reserves are the goldilocks of goals, with the high anchor of a hard goal but the slack of an easy goal.

Say that, for example, you want to write more at work. You could commit to writing for an hour every day, likely something that most would consider a hard, inflexible goal. Or you could commit to writing only three days of the week, a relatively easy goal. But if you were to employ an emergency reserve goal, you might commit to writing every day but allow yourself two “emergency skip days” where you can choose not to write on those days. This goal feels as ambitious as the hard goal, and has all of its aspirational power, but in reality is only as strict as the easy goal. “By framing the goal as an emergency reserve, you’ve psychologically set yourself up for success,” says researcher Marissa Sharif. …


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Don’t settle for “car-maggedon” when you can ditch the traffic and find a better commute. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The average commute to work in the US is about half an hour (26.9 minutes to be exact, according to the US Census Bureau), and is getting longer every year. To make matters worse, the majority of commuters — 57% of us — leave home right when traffic is heaviest. It’s likely no surprise that commuting in traffic is not an experience that people find delightful.

What may be surprising, however, is that the commute is rated the most miserable part of the day on average, ranking below even housework. Economists Alois Stutzer and Bruno Frey found that in order to compensate for the blow to one’s subjective well-being as a result of commuting, someone would require a 40% salary increase to offset an hour’s worth of commuting. …


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Make a positive, lasting impression on your interviewer with the peak-and-end effect. GETTY

As the blind dates of business, job interviews are a dance between organizations that hope to hire the best person for the job and applicants hoping to find the best job for themselves. For business leaders searching for the right candidates, they have full control of the interview environment and can (read: should) design their hiring processes to be inclusive and eliminate bias. But for applicants hoping to shine within systems they have little control over, it may seem like there are few strategies they can use to get ahead. Fortunately, the behavioral sciences have some advice for your next job interview (and it’s not to work on your power pose). …


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The reign of Milton Friedman’s (pictured) notion of maximizing shareholder value comes to an end with the Business Roundtable’s recent Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

Almost 200 of America’s most prominent CEOs belonging to the Business Roundtable recently redefined the ultimate mission of corporations, overturning the focus on “maximizing shareholder value” that has reigned supreme for the past 20 years. Originally proposed in 1970, Milton Friedman’s doctrine of shareholder value promised a clear-cut method for guiding the efforts of corporate executives. His proposal was simple, attractive — and completely misguided.

Friedman criticized the social responsibilities of business, calling businesspeople who gave weight to matters like the well-being of their employees or protecting the environment “unwitting pup­pets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society.” And yet, Milton’s mantra of maximizing shareholder value above all else was embraced by corporations for decades. But with the Business Roundtable’s recent Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, executives appear to be changing their tune to broaden the focus of their organizations from an exclusive concentration on the financial profits of shareholders to an extension to other stakeholders: their employees, supply chains and the global environment. …


I haven’t been able to find any sort of centralized collection of jobs in applied behavioral science. So I’ve put together a collection of the fragmented resources out there. (It’s just a start. Let me know if you have anything to add!)

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Aline Holzwarth and Dan Ariely, applied behavioral scientists working at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University

If you’re a behavioral scientist looking for a job in industry, here are some paths* you can try.

  1. behavioraleconomics.com
  2. PeopleScience (+ Action Design Network)
  3. Behavioral Science & Policy Association
  4. Behavioral Insights Global
  5. Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM)
  6. Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SOIP)
  7. American Psychological Association (APA)
  8. Association for Psychological Science (APS)
  9. Behavioral Insights Student Group at Harvard (BIG/BISG)
  10. Search LinkedIN (keyword: “behavioral science”- try other iterations like “behavior design” - **most jobs are…

About

Aline Holzwarth

Aline Holzwarth is an applied behavioral scientist, primarily focusing on digital health research and scientifically informed product design. alineholzwarth.com

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