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BiteSCIze with Amy Bucher
  • Who are you?

I am the Chief Behavioural Officer at Lirio, where we use artificial intelligence to personalize the delivery of behavioural science-based messaging to get people to take action on their health. We call it Precision Nudging. I’ve been working in the digital health space since 2006, and even before that, have researched how subtle interventions can influence real-world behaviour.

  • How did you get into Behavioural Science?

I first encountered behavioural science as an undergraduate at Harvard University. I was convinced I’d study English and read novels for a living, but quickly discovered that hobbies lose their luster when they become your work. My roommate suggested I elect psychology as a major, and fortunately I loved it. I realized it could be a career when I first began working as a research assistant in Dr. Nalini Ambady’s lab and never looked back.

  • What are you working on right now? 

My team at Lirio is working on what we call a Large Behaviour Model, or LBM, which you can think of as an analogue to a large language model. We are able to represent people across different behaviours, contexts, and over time to better predict and influence their behaviours. One of the reasons this work is exciting to me is that it is a true partnership between our behavioural science, artificial intelligence, and technology teams. It’s rewarding to figure out how to fit these different areas of expertise together, and I’m constantly learning. Of course this is also exciting because it will ultimately enable us to orchestrate patient journeys across their healthcare. 

  • What do you like most about what you do?

I love variety of tasks and learning new skills and information, and get to experience both in spades at Lirio. The startup environment is fast and challenging. I didn’t expect how rewarding it would be to work with more junior behavioural scientists, but so much has changed since I finished my PhD that I wouldn’t be able to keep current without my younger colleagues. They are brilliant. And I learn a lot from working alongside scientists of a different discipline on the same problems. 

  • What role is there for communications in changing behaviour?

That is pretty much my obsession! I think communications are a critical way to interest people in pursuing a course of action. We can use behavioural science in communications to overcome initial barriers to change, such as a mental model that a behaviour might not be appropriate or a lack of knowledge about the benefits of a behaviour. We can also use communications to encourage people along the change path once they get started, providing just-in-time information and support. That said, I don’t think communications work in isolation without also considering the systems in which behaviours take place. 

  • If you could work on / research any topic what would it be and why?

My heart is in healthcare. All of my professional roles have focused in health (although I did venture a bit into financial services when I was a consultant – it did not spark the same passion!). I’ve worked on several projects related to colorectal cancer screening and want to continue anything that helps people get screened; it’s an area of health risk for me personally, so I deeply feel the value in intervening on CRC screening. It’s also something people are embarrassed to discuss and with recent changes in screening recommendations in the US not necessarily aware of what’s recommended for them, so there is a lot of opportunity.

  • What is your favourite behavioural science paper/book/resource and why?

I won’t say my own book. I commented on LinkedIn recently that Behavioral Insights by Michael Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman is the book I’ve bought the most copies of, so I will say that. I love that it’s short but packed with quality information. I also really enjoyed the dry humour throughout.

  • Who do you think is interesting in the general field?

I don’t know her personally but admire Simine Vazire. She shares really interesting things online and seems like a very thoughtful, ethical behavioural scientist. I’d love to hear about her process in developing her piece on the next chapter for Psychological Science as the incoming Editor-in-Chief. The Next Chapter for Psychological Science I’m excited to see what she’s able to accomplish in reforming the peer review industry, which desperately needs some fixes.

  • What haven’t we asked you that we should have?

Maybe what have I learned from my hobbies that has influenced my approach to behavioural science. I am cheating a little because I have hobbies that clearly relate to behavioural science – I love to read, especially fiction, and I enjoy physical activity.

  • Who is one person that we can speak to for our next interview and if you could ask them one question, what would it be?

I’ve been very interested in Zoé Ziani– she took a principled stance as a whistle-blower against academic misconduct just as she was finishing her doctorate. I think it shows incredible strength of character. What has happened for her since, and how has the whistleblowing experience specifically affected her professional path?

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