Category Archives: Individual Differences

Man on tablet

Marketing Technology

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Gartner, the IT research company, published its 2016 list of predictions for marketing technology a few weeks ago. As I was reading it, I was struck with how easily the list could be aligned with the user experience of the typical purchase process. Not the complete buyer’s journey; but at least the transactions steps in the middle.

In less than three years, advances in marketing technology will move beyond human intervention to streamlining and scaling activities that currently require manual interactions with audiences. Intelligent technologies will do more than automate repetitive operations — they will investigate, evaluate and make decisions on behalf of both marketers and customers.Marketing technology will soon become so intelligent that it will perform tasks that have always required direct human involvement.

lottie doll

Identity Resonance

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By what I think is coincidence, I came across many examples of design that have as part of their missions to help users either develop a stronger self-identity or display and reinforce the identity they have. I am a huge proponent of using identity resonance as a design tool, so I really enjoyed selecting a few good examples for this article.

That’s why the Lottie Doll looks, well, just like a typical nine-year-old girl. She doesn’t wear makeup, high heels or jewellery, she’s ethnically diverse with tactile hair and clothes, and she can stand on her own two feet. Lottie is feisty. She occasionally makes mistakes. She loves adventure and the outdoors. She has a wild imagination – just like a real child. Even her clothes are made to get dirty.

anxious women

Anxiety Moves You to the Left

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A study by Mario Weick and his team at the University of Kent conducted a study that looked at two variables you might not think are related. He blindfolded his participants and instructed them to talk in a straight line towards a target that he had showed them just before putting on the blindfold. (kind of like pin the tail on the donkey).

Scientists have discovered that feeling anxious makes people begin veering to the left because their right hand side of the brain is so active.
Dr Mario Weick of the School of Psychology at the University of Kent has for the first time linked the activation of the brain’s two hemispheres with shifts in people’s walking trajectories.

teddy bears

Compliance with Social Norms

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Compliance with social norms has both a bright side and a dark side. On the positive, having some basic behaviors that people follow to get along with colleagues and neighbors helps teams perform more fluidly. It keeps society organized and helps us enforce the rule of law. It keeps meetings orderly. It pressures students to pay attention in class.

So how do we know when to promote compliance and when to promote non-compliance? I am not talking about defiance and outright rebellion, just maybe some moderate nonconformity. As individuals, are we well calibrated to know when to conform and when to stray? In our work teams, do we know how to balance the two poles? As a society, are we creating a culture that has a happy mix? The proverbial middle path?

little girl in bed

Bedtime Math Stories

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So here is the set up. Too many parents have a phobia when they talk about math with their kids. They get visibly anxious and uncomfortable. They describe their interest in and ability with math negatively. “Math is hard.” “I am not good at math.” This leads their kids to think about math the same way. Plus, it reduces the child’s willingness to ask their parents for help with homework. They don’t share their interest in math with their parents over the dinner table. In the long run, it reduces our societal capabilities in math by slowing it down right from the start.

Even children who used the app with their parents as little as once a week saw gains in math achievement by the end of the school year. The app’s effect was especially strong for children whose parents tend to be anxious or uncomfortable with math.

lightbulb

Social Strategies for Creativity

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My Take This article has a few great topics for us. I think the primary message is the first one. One of the best ways to be creative is to be open to all kinds of ideas and experiences (the Openness to Experience trait of the Five Factor model) and to frequently expose yourself to new and novel ones. It is possible to do this by following a diverse group of thought leaders who post intelligent content. Of course, it is also possible for social…

red dice

Risk Preference and the NAcc

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This study in Brain came from a team from the UK and Spain. They are studying the link between risk preference and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Even given the limitations in associating brain activity and human behavior that I acknowledged above, there is reasonable evidence that the NAcc is linked to risk preference. This study is remarkable in that they did a controlled study and the participants were blind to the intervention. This is rare in neuropsych studies where confounds and mediators are hard to control for.

Short-lived phasic electrical stimulation of the region of the nucleus accumbens dynamically altered risk behaviour, transiently shifting the psychometric function towards more risky decisions only for the duration of stimulation. A critical, on-line role of human nucleus accumbens in dynamic risk control is thereby established.

Term of Service

Age of Consent

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The minimum age at which kids can legally be held to a Terms of Service agreement might be raised from 13 to 16 in Europe. Currently, companies have to ask parents’ permission for children under the 13. My Take This is an interesting policy question. Businesses want the age of consent to be as low as possible because that expands their market (on the assumption that children are more likely to accept the agreement than their parents are). This explains why Google, Facebook and Twitter…

Autonomous Car

Social Graces in AI

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You have probably read a lot of coverage of ethics in AI design. We will be covering that here next week. But in the meantime, I came across a related issue that I wanted to share – whether we need AI to understand social conventions. In particular, there are two domains that leapt out at me. One is with humanoid robots that use emotional responses to establish rapport with their users and to be more effective at activities like health care support. We have talked…

folded map

Sense of Direction

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I recently came across this article describing a study from a research team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their hypothesis was that the difference emerges from hormonal differences, specifically testosterone. Not brain wiring.

Using fMRI, the researchers saw that men in the study took several shortcuts, oriented themselves more using cardinal directions and used a different part of the brain than the women in the study. But when women got a drop of testosterone under their tongue, several of them were able to orient themselves better in the four cardinal directions.