Background Knowledge Errors

Doctors and Anchoring Errors

In the past few months, two people I know almost died (one will die very soon) due to medical mistakes. Considering both of these men are well educated and live in America, in major metropolitan areas, with access to a wide variety of experts, and with very supportive family and friends, how can this happen? Tragically enough, their stories are not the exceptions. They fell victim to Anchoring Errors — judgement errors common in situations with lots of stress (e.g. emergency rooms); where many individuals are involved (e.g. a parade of doctors assigned to a patient in a hospital); where there’s inadequate time for problem solving (again, think emergency rooms); and, most importantly, there’s no built-in mechanisms to go back and re-conceptualize the problem, to re-diagnose, and to change the solution in the light of other variables or data. Doctors make mistakes. We ALL do, all the time. But when doctors make it, the prognosis for the patients are sometimes dire. In the cases I’m about to describe, deadly… “How Doctors Think” is an amazing book and one I have given to many of my friends and family and even to my personal physician. It describes way in which even…

Designing an Optimum Nudge

Tornado Exhibit at the Exploratorium

I’m sitting by a window looking out at a rainy Paris street, thinking of cultural differences between Paris and San Francisco, taking advantage of bad weather to do some writing. Over two decades ago, I did some ethnographic research a Exploratorium, looking at how different visitors interacted with the museum’s hands-on exhibits. I was looking for ways to improve the visitors’ experience, raise understanding of the phenomena they were observing. What I saw was different ways in which visitors experienced failure: p-prims that got in a way; folksy wisdom that caused confusion; lack of affordances that led to bottlenecks; permission giving that set up strange expectations; etc. The results of this study turned into a Master Thesis for UC Berkeley. Now, I would like to explore some of the ideas that surfaced during my Exploratorium research and apply them to design of nudging — carefully crafted affordances and perceptual cues that manipulated users into acting a certain way while maintaining the illusion of freedom of action. Let me start with a bit of history — a quick summary of some of the results of Exploratorium study. Permission Giving Two decades ago, “hands-on” exhibits were still novel in the museum world.…

Cultural Barriers to Success

Tim Buton Exhibition at La Cinémathèque in Paris

Man-made Disasters in a Wake of Tsunami This month, The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission issued its final report on the disaster: It was man-made! Here’s a quote from the report: What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program”; our groupism; and our insularity. Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same. The last sentence is particular insightful — the blame was not rested on the shoulders of a particular individual, as tempting as that might be, or even on the shoulders of some manager. The fault was places on the cultural context in which the incident played out. Museums in Paris We just got back from seeing a Tim Burton exhibit at the La Cinémathèque, in Paris. The content of the exhibit, as one could imagine, is quite wonderful. But there were many, many human failures in making the visit an enjoyable experience. And yes,…

Foie Gras on Child’s Menu and Other Cultural Differences

2012-06-28 School Menu in France

We are staying in a tiny village of Cenac, in a beautiful Dordogne Valley in France — the valley of foie gras (duck liver). The other day, when we went out for dinner in a local restaurant, we saw a great little item on the Child’s Menu: foie gras! Imagine a duck liver pate on a child’s menu anywhere in US? Here, it’s a common item — if not duck liver, than some other pate is often on the menu for kids. Check out the photo we took of the elementary school menu, posted on the door of the school: Notice the rabbit, duck, olives, salad and vegetables, and, of course, the pate on the menu! I think the families and children in this small village would be shocked by the menu offerings at our schools in San Francisco! This is a cultural difference! Cultural differences affect how we think about problem solving — how we approach the problem and how we go about looking for solutions. Consider a few images below. They are from India and show a cultural difference in imaginative solutions to every day problems: The motorcycle bus and the home-made flotation device show creativity within a…

Design Solution to Real World Problem — Speeding!

Canada Road Slowdown Project

Knowing something about behavior, visual processing, and human nature, designers can nudge users into doing the right (or in this case, lawful) action. Speeding is a problem all over the world. People are notorious for underestimating the real amount of time it takes to get places they need to be. Traffic congestion, car problems, detours, and other (un)foreseen events can make a huge difference in time variability of getting from one place to another. The problem, though, is that we can’t really force people to leave on time or drive the speed limit when the drivers think that no one is looking. So with the law on our side, we can create other ways of forcing people to behave lawfully by changing environmental conditions and relying on human nature not to do what’s right, but to do what they think they have to based on circumstance. Here are a few creative ways of solving the speeding problem on our streets. Using Visual Processing Errors to Slow Traffic Canadian drives misdiagnose the problem and try to drive straddling the “hole” in the road. Everyone is successfully slowed down. The Fake Traffic Cop Threat as a Speeding Deterrent In general, people tend…

Information in the Age of ICT: the Guardian Newspaper 3 Little Pigs Ad

The 2012 Guardian newspaper ad really captures the flow of information in the age of ICT (Information Communication Technologies). The ad retells the story of the 3 little pigs, their houses, and the big bad wolf. It shows how stories change with spin and through propagation through social media: twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Well done!

US Rio+2.0 Breakout Session on Environmental & Conservation Education

Below are the notes from the US Rio+2.0 conference hosted at Stanford last week. The notes are from the Education: Environment and Conservation breakout session. US Rio+2.0 Breakout Session Education: Environment and Conservation Attendees: Prof. Anthony D. Barnosky: Professor and Curator, Department of Integrative Biology at University of California Berkeley Wali Modaqiq: Deputy Director General (DDG), National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Dr. Khalid Naseemi: Chief of Staff & Spokes Person for National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Julie Noblitt: The Green Ninja — Climate-action Superhero Prof. Robert Siegel, M.D., Ph.D.: Associate Professor, Microbiology & Immunology Human Biology/African Studies at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences Dr. Beth Stevens: Senior Vice President, Corporate Citizenship Environment and Conservation at Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. Madam Anyaa Vohiri, M.A., J.D.: Executive Director, Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia Olga Werby, Ed.D.: President, Pipsqueak Productions, LLC. Mostapha Zaher: Director General (DG), National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Our breakout group was partly the result of the conversation started the day before in the Environment session. Some of the members of our breakout group were present in that session as well. The main discussion…