App research

Motivation for behavior change: Negative vs positive reinforcement

A study conducted in Bangladesh sought to find whether improved access to sanitation and other health technologies is better achieved through monetary subsidies or shaming techniques:

Negative reinforcement app:

GymPact ( Gym-Pact takes money out of your bank account when you don’t go to the gym. The money it collects is then redistributed to those in your network who actually went.

Positive reinforcement apps:

Zamzee ( is designed to increase physical activity using an accelerometer.  Games designed for kids.

Carrot ( organizes your short term goals and the rewards you set for yourself for accomplishing them.  Crowdsources encouragement from other users.

Culture differences:

“A crucial tradeoff arises in the model between the benefits of encouraging self-improvement and the benefits of promoting initiative and new investments. In this context, self-esteem maintenance (self-enhancement) and high sensitivity to shame emerge as substitute mechanisms to induce efficient effort and investment decisions, generating a \North American” equilibrium with overconfidence and low sensitivity to shame, and a \Japanese” equilibrium with high sensitivity to shame and no overconfidence. The analysis identifies the key equilibrium costs as well as the benefits of reliance on each mechanism, and the implications for welfare.”

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation:
Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.


3-D printing custom consumer products

As new technologies make personalization of consumer products more feasible for the masses, I’m sure more companies will be cashing in on it like this company Protos:

Who wouldn’t want something customized to perfectly fit your body, preferences, and style?


Personally, I tend to have a hard time shopping for anything because I usually have such a specific idea in mind of what I’m looking for.  Then nothing in the stores measures up to what I had imagined.

Protos used a crowdfunding campaign to get their feet off the ground.  They raised their goal of $25,000 that will help them develop a web interface and sell their products in high volumes.  Their custom frames and lenses cost $399.

I remember when Levi’s first started selling custom fit jeans back in 1995.  But for whatever reason, it didn’t seem to catch on.  Maybe it was the price?  Do you the average consumer is willing to pay a significant amount more for something that fits a little bit better?

Ugly bracelets on fit people

I had dinner the other night with my friend Emily and she was wearing her new Nike Fuel Band.  Duh, everybody’s doin it.  It’s a bracelet that motivates the wearer to stay active by tracking steps each day using an accelerometer.

She said it was fun, but that it was hard to remember to wear and that it looked pretty ugly for a wear-every-single-day accessory:


Then I saw this article on TechCrunch about an app called Moves.


It’s a FREE activity tracker that does the same thing as the fuel band, but using something with an accelerometer that you already carry around every single day — your phone!

Accelerometer demo

Accelerometer demo

What do you think is the future of activity tracking?  Sensors built directly in to your clothes?

Eat your veggies!

I was a picky eater as a child.  Especially in the school cafeteria, where I’d trade my regular milk for chocolate and eat nothing else.  Unless it was pizza day.


Fourth grade lunch table. We look pretty happy, so it must’ve been pizza day.

Bravo, then, to Chicago’s Greater Good Studio, who set out to redesign school lunches so kids would interact with food in a positive, healthy and fun way.

Their ethnographic research included using GoPro cameras on the kids’ heads: Skip ahead to 12m 38s

A few changes to the environment, like changing this:


…to this:


…did the trick!  Kids ate more balanced meals.  They saw what their friends were eating and felt supported when trying something new.