When you look at the prototype of Goliath, the future father figures our daughter right in the head. Composed of computer modeling and nearly one-hundred hours of nonstop study, Goliath won the “Project competition,” which involved building a machine to produce positive feedback and behavioral changes. That model is currently being developed and scrutinized by U.C. Berkeley psychologists, business researchers, and engineers in the Haas School of Business. Here are some specifics about the research being done at MIT Sloan, U.C. Berkeley, and Haas—and the challenges Goliath and its creators face.
Product category: Engineering in the realms of motivator- and optimization-based modeling as well as personalized/personalized feedback, and designing socio-emotional user experiences for behavioral change
Demographic and cultural background: Founded in the American South (in this case it’s the U.S.), studied by researchers from Chinese and Thai schools
Reality check: Not that far-fetched; researchers have found evidence for study-based psychological change in practices and behaviour in many disciplines, including neuroscience, economics, and sociology. But, the experience of therapy and behavioral change research is very variable. Researchers at the Haas School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University recently discovered that making it difficult to use as the barriers to positive change. They propose some efficient, non-punitive, easily-realized systems for behavioral intervention.
For example, by incorporating computer learning algorithms into its application, there are now technologies that can help design realistic studies about behavioral change. One example is the SFIT Family Intervention Toolkit, which includes curriculum and research in the non-clinical domains of economic, family relations, and consumer behaviors. These practices are now being used by psychologists around the world, which is something previously only offered to people paying their own way for private therapy or strategies that are non-tested and never tried.
But, Goliath, and other behavior change initiatives (including wishful thinking) have their pitfalls and challenges. Successful behavior change and engagement happen one person at a time—but where does the feedback go, as you create a system of human feedback and interpersonal effectiveness?
To get feedback on his research and behavior change studies with behavioral psychologist Lloyd Baker, MIT Sloan’s David Freeman sent him a Goliath design sample–a machine to generate feedback and behavior changes. After using it on eight people, “He was very troubled about how not simple the feedback could be and how difficult the feedback would be to receive.” The trouble with helping people form behavioral change is that researchers feel the pain of the individual. It’s a good thing, and it often help helps get results. It is just harder, more intricate, and more challenging to get results.
This is because the kind of psychology MIT Sloan has invested in—hiring-based behavioral science and introspection—has yet to be incorporated into the model of businesses. There are over 700 academic fields in psychology, but most of these operate in the domain of teaching or research, with one exception: understanding and interventions in the domain of business. The belief is that changing behavior in a business is extremely difficult and requires many people to participate in the process, and with different reasons.
For IBM researchers, a systematic model of behavior that they call the human decision tree has been in place since the late 1970s, aimed at figuring out which factors influence business decisions and how different drivers affect different ways that businesses manage them. For example, the human decision tree has been created to treat the number of customers as a driver of how a company makes decisions on any given business. However, it has not yet been applied to the human decision tree in the world of business and decision making.
On the other hand, other behavioral interventions and programs have been tried in business (with mixed results) or other fields. The Accountability Effectiveness Laboratory (AEL) is a group of behavioral scientists, social psychologists, and economists developing techniques to give managers or employees more control over expectations, standards, feedback, and punishment; and better tools for business leaders and coaches to use to manage workers and teams. AEL has been in use in non-profits for decades and has been adopted by national, state, and international organizations to encourage effective organization management. The principles of AEL are now proposed for widespread application to various parts of business.