Wearables and Human Behaviour

I found this paper “Inside Wearables – How the Science of Human Behaviour Change Offers the Secret to Long-Term Engagement” at MakerFaireUK, and the title caught my attention. It’s a really interesting approach to wearables, especially tackling the fact that “a third of U.S. consumers who have owned one stopped using the device within six months of receiving it”.

So what it’s the answer for long term engagement? First, they listed 9 baseline criteria for commercial success, things like OOB, UX, comfort, API/Integratability. Then, they look into human behavioural studies to find the key 3 criteria for this long term engagement: Habit Formation, Social Motivation, Goal Reinforcement.

Habit formation: “Psychologists define habits as automatic behaviors or routines that are triggered by situational cues, which are then followed by some form of reward. For example, when we feel lonely (internal trigger) or receive a push notification (external trigger) while riding the subway (situational cue) we check Facebook (behavior), and may experience pleasure (reward). Decades of psychological and cognitive neuroscience research have been spent studying the habit formation process.”

Social motivation: “The human factors and mechanisms at work here include social support from friends and family, as well as the fear and guilt from losing social capital by not reaching a goal* … we learn not just from our own experiences, but also vicariously from observing those around us. For example, if person A observes that person B has lost 10 pounds by using an activity tracker, person A learns that he or she may be be able to lose weight if he or she acquires an activity tracker and replicates the same behavior.”

Goal reinforcement: “To achieve sustained engagement, a user needs to experience a feeling of progress toward defined goals. … By setting small goals, people are less likely to over-reach and fall short, and thereby gain the momentum necessary to progress. This allows people to experience a sense of continuous progress.”

They then tested 8 wearables against those criterias. Here’s how they scored:

wearables-test1

The full paper is here http://endeavourpartners.net/assets/Wearables-and-the-Science-of-Human-Behavior-Change-EP4.pdf . It was a great reading, and made me remember why most often than not I spend my weekends on psychology books and writing essays. It’s not just about a good set of features – that’s the basics – but the key to adoption is looking into human behaviour and translating those into technology.

*I would debate that, but hey, let’s assume it’s true.

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