To make real impact in the world, I believe you need the support of a terrific organization. I feel fortunate to have been affiliated with Stanford for over 25 years -- since 1993. Along the way I've been inspired by peers, challenged by students, and guided by Stanford's ethos of making the world a better place.
On the teaching side of things, I’m currently appointed as Adjunct Professor in the Division of Health and Human Performance (HHP) within the Stanford Flourishing Project, under the umbrella of the Stanford School of Medicine. Previously I taught my classes in the Department of Computer Science and the Graduate School of Education. At times I contribute at the d.School and the Symbolic Systems Program. No matter the department or program, I welcome students from across campus to join my courses and to do research in my lab. Most are graduate students, but I like working with smart and motivated undergrads as well.
Our Stanford Lab
My current projects range from research to innovation, teaching to mentoring -- a fun mix.
At Stanford I lead an interdisciplinary team of Stanford students, recent graduates, and quantitative researchers. About 10 people are involved in lab projects at any given time.Our lab’s overall mission is this: Teach good people how human behavior works so they can create solutions that effectively increase health, boost happiness, and promote human flourishing.
Climate Action Training: Helping professionals save the planet
Most climate change professionals do not have training in behavior change. As such, they don’t know how to reliably influence behavior, which is a fundamental part of their jobs (and also important for the planet).
Our lab team created an online curriculum in Behavior Design for these climate professionals. We worked with two leading instructional designers to bring together text, graphics, video, mastery quizzes, and downloadable resources for each of our eight lessons.
Two pilot tests confirmed that (1) climate change professionals need more guidance in behavior change and (2) our behavior design methods helped them be more confident in their projects. We will further improve this training and then seek to scale it, measuring the impact all along the way.
Upregulating Positive Emotions: Giving people more happiness each day
Because of the pandemic and political conflict, people around the world are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress. This leads to additional problems in health, relationships, productivity, and more.
As a lab team, we've compiled over 200 techniques for upregulating positive emotion (the largest collection ever). We are now exploring, through design and research, how to match people with the best techniques. For example, our lab just began offering a 20-minute online training program for the general public. On the research side, our data show that this program significantly increases people's confidence in upregulating emotions at times of need.
As our lab develops new tools and training for emotion regulation, we hope to give people around the world new resources and skills so they can feel more positive emotions throughout their day.
Screentime Reduction: Reducing unwanted screentime
We want to help people around the world reduce unproductive time spent with technology.
Our lab’s Screentime Reduction Project builds on our groundbreaking work in 2019. After compiling the world’s largest database of methods for reducing screen time, in 2020 we entered a new phase of running experiments in order to evaluate those methods and improve our online tool. You can find more here: http://screentime.stanford.edu
Since our initial launch in mid 2019, Screentime Genie has helped thousands of people reduce their unwanted screentime, saving humanity an estimated 14,000 hours so far, and we’re just getting started.
Rosetta Project: Translating Stanford insights into practical solutions
Stanford researchers have discovered many insights that can help people flourish. However, in the vast majority of cases, those research insights have not been translated into practical products or programs. As a result, Stanford is missing a big opportunity to help people flourish.
Encouraged by the Stanford Office of Development, our lab has taken on the challenge of translating Stanford research insights into practical program. We will do this using our skills in Behavior Design. That means research, design, testing, and iteration. After we show that a new program works (helping Stanford students, for example), we will then use Stanford's resources to scale the program beyond campus.
This project will benefit Stanford researchers who seek to have impact in the real world. Outside of Stanford, this project will help many people flourish, as our lab develops and shares science-based interventions for a global audience.
P.E.P. — Helping reduce depression, without using medication
Working with two other researchers at Stanford's School of Medicine, I've helped create a new way to reduce depression in older adults. How? We help people create new habits, drawing on the Tiny Habits method.
Our pilot study results are statistically significant, and we hope to scale this project.
The implications are big: PCPs could use our program to treat depression, instead of prescribing medication. This is especially important for older adults.
3-minute video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eVSG779OIc
For about 10 years I taught my models and methods for Stanford's Department of Computer Science. As my interest evolved away from technology, I also changed departments. Today my teaching appointment is through Health and Human Performance in the Department of Medicine within the Stanford School of Medicine.
Usually I keep my class sizes small, and students apply to join by doing a small project that shows their skills in judgment and communication. I try to admit a diverse group--from different majors, ages, ethnicities--because I believe this makes a better class for everyone. (And sorry: I don't allow auditors, though sometimes I will welcome a guest to join one or two classes.)
Each year I create a new course to teach -- something that has never been done before. My classes always relate to human behavior in some way, but I explore from different angles. The first day of class I tell students that my courses are like a start-up. We have a plan for now, but I'm quite sure that plan will change. And I don't know if we will succeed. Why? Because no one has ever explored this topic before, and no one has ever taught a class like this before. They need to be flexible; they need to help the class move forward in a good way. And then I invite them to drop the class by saying, "If this kind of class scares you, then you need to drop and find a class that is more traditional."
So what happens? Almost no one drops. Most students love the idea of a groundbreaking class. And I do too. For 10 weeks we get to explore an important new area together.
A Few Former Students
Below I highlight some of my former students and lab members. As a teacher for all, and a mentor for some, I am grateful for the opportunity. I always challenge my students to use what they've learned from me to make the world a better place.