BiteSCIze with Roos van Duijnhoven

  • Who are you?

I’m Roos van Duijnhoven, and as my name might give away, I’m Dutch (Roos is Dutch for Rose). Currently, I’m based in Amsterdam. I’m a behavioral scientist with a background in social psychology and neuropsychology. I’m also a co-founder of Nuance Behavior, a behavioral science collective where we focus on digital behavior change solutions. Apart from being excited about anything related to behavior, I love cooking and baking sourdough bread, traveling, and practicing Muay Thai.

  • How did you get into Behavioural Science?

I completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology and followed that up with a master’s degree in behavior change and another in brain and cognition. I knew quite quickly that clinical psych wasn’t something for me personally. And although I enjoy doing research, academia wasn’t the right fit either. What excites me most is bringing scientific insights to life through practical interventions or solutions and seeing how they can positively impact ‘real-world’ behavior.

  • What are you working on right now? 

Besides some consulting projects, the Nuance team and I are working on the Behavior Change Score. This evaluation method aims to assess the potential effectiveness of behavior change apps, like health apps or popular self-help apps. If people want to improve their workout routine for example, or want to pick up meditation, there are countless apps available in the Appstore. But how can they know which one is the best? How reliable are Appstore reviews, and how much do they really an app’s ability helps you change and maintain behavior over time? 

Many apps claim to be built on behavioral science, yet we often see a gap between the theoretical understanding of behavior change and the features designed to support it. Through the Behavior Change Score, we’re identifying trends in the integration of BeSci into product design and areas for improvement.

  • What do you like most about what you do?

I enjoy working with experts from other disciplines, combining insights from multiple perspectives. And I love that I have the opportunity to work on societal challenges. Maybe sounds a bit cheesy but it does feel rewarding to see that your work can have a positive impact on people’s lives and well-being.

  • What role is there for communications in changing behaviour?

I see communication as a way to deliver behavior change techniques. The effectiveness of communication depends on what you’re conveying and how you’re framing your message. If you want to motivate people to take action, just providing information is not going to cut it. You need to understand why people are or aren’t doing the target behavior right now. Once you know the factors influencing behavior, you can tailor your communication to tap into the right values people care about or address possible barriers.

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

I used to work for a Dutch bank where I studied cybercrime and fraud, focusing on how criminals influence people and how we can increase people’s resilience against fraud. Victims are often blamed or shamed for making mistakes and ‘falling for obvious scams’. But in reality, anyone can become a victim as criminal methods are very sophisticated these days. Instead of viewing human behavior as a weak link, it should be reframed as a human line of defense in addition to the more common technical firewalls and security measures.

This sparked my interest in digital literacy. I left my job at the bank because I wanted to work on topics beyond cybercrime too. As tech has become more important in everyday life, so has digital literacy. Improving digital literacy can help people to navigate the digital world more safely and effectively, reducing not only the risk of falling victim to cybercrime, but it also extends to areas beyond cybersecurity. An example could be how digitalization in healthcare can improve access to services but at the same time may contribute to a digital divide due to differences in digital skills.

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

A go-to answer is Engaged by Amy Bucher. But another one that comes to mind is the paper “Conditions for Intuitive Expertise: A Failure to Disagree” by Kahneman & Klein. They explore the differences between heuristics & biases and naturalistic decision-making – two approaches that seem to contradict each other. Besides being an insightful read, I really appreciate how they came together to discuss their agreements and disagreements on decision-making without wanting to prove to each other that they are right, but genuinely aiming to understand the differences and overlaps between their perspectives.

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

Sarah Osman, she applies behavioral science to international development, working with NGOs and non-profits. 

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

Some recommendations for podcasts about behavioral science. (Also because I’m curious what others are listening too! 😊)

  • 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?

Melisa Basol, she focuses on responsible innovation in tech and building resilience to misinformation. I’d ask her about her views on how social media impacts social wellbeing. I’d also be interested in her perspectives on how online spaces could be redesigned to foster trust and more pro-social behaviors.

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