29 September 2013

The science behind using online communities to change behavior

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Sean Young, a behavioral psychologist, a family medicine professor and director of innovation at the center for behavioral and addiction medicine at UCLA, addresses the challenge of technology entrepreneurs on how to engage people and change behaviors.

Fortunately, he says, “there is a science behind how to change behavior, and the answer to engagement and behavior change lies in understanding people’s psychology.”

“By addressing people’s psychological needs and reasons for not changing behavior (including their social environments, cultural values, and emotions), we can be more effective at behavior change. Once we understand people’s psychologies, then technologies — online communities in particular — become really useful as platforms to rapidly change behavior.

Although social media and online communities might have been developed for people to connect and share information, recent research shows that these technologies are really helpful in changing behaviors.”

Dr. Young argues that newly created online communities can change people’s behaviors by addressing the following psychological needs:

  • The need to trust
  • The need to fit in
  • The need for self-worth
  • The need to be rewarded for good behavior
  • The need to feel empowered

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