By Ilya Lyashevsky and Melissa Cesarano, PIPs Partners and Guest Contributors
Tens of millions of people have been grappling with pandemic-related stress, depression, and anxiety, bringing into stark relief the importance of soft skills like emotional flexibility and resilience for psychological health and personal well-being. In light of this, it’s encouraging to see the emergence of an array of emotional wellness technologies that have the potential to make emotional skill training widely accessible and effective. However, one of the challenges such tech solutions face is rapid user disengagement, which leads to poor outcomes. After all, like other skills, emotional skills require consistent practice in order to see and sustain improvement.
As researchers and educators, we have grappled with this problem for years. Our solution? Return to the fundamental aspects of socio-emotional skill development and incentivize this development with rewards.
Learning and practice in this domain typically involves engaging with examples of human emotions and behavior, often through stories. These stories — whether fiction or nonfiction — can be very simple when working with the young, but as people get older (e.g. high school and beyond), their emotional sophistication increases and requires more advanced educational narratives.
Therefore, a key goal is to use stories that people beyond grade school will find genuinely engaging. One could try to create such stories from scratch, but as any writer or director can tell you, doing so isn’t easy. Most of us are familiar with unfortunate examples of “edutainment,” which are neither very entertaining nor, as a result, especially effective as learning tools. The alternative is to use professionally produced content that people already love, content that today one finds on popular streaming sites like Netflix and Disney+.
This is where our platform, ThinkHuman.tv (ThinkHuman), comes in. Users engage with ThinkHuman through a browser extension that works on streaming sites like Netflix and Disney+ and can leverage the full breadth of high-quality content offered through these entertainment platforms. The browser extension is powered by an emotional learning engine (now patent-pending) developed on the basis of our research at Columbia University. Among other things, the engine enables a fully personalized emotional wellness training experience; users can watch any supported titles in any order, and their progress through the training content — an emotion science curriculum targeting fundamental emotional literacy principles — will seamlessly “carry over.” In other words, they can start watching Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, then switch to Star Wars on Disney+, and their training will continue to progress across streaming sites and shows without losing ground.
By meeting people where they are — on streaming sites — and leveraging content they genuinely enjoy, ThinkHuman is able to engage users in ways traditional emotional learning solutions can’t. For instance, ThinkHuman’s approach may offer a way to help those who are reluctant to start meditating or pursue therapy, two of today’s dominant emotional wellness modalities. In doing so, ThinkHuman could help many more people acquire greater emotional knowledge and improve emotional flexibility and resilience. Such skills not only improve individual lives, but also provide benefits on a societal level, moving us toward greater tolerance, justice, and prosperity.
In late summer, following integration with the PIPs Rewards™ App, ThinkHuman will begin awarding Positive Impact Points or PIPs to premium users of the ThinkHuman.tv extension and to select members of the PIPs Community. A “currency of good,” PIPs are awarded primarily to students for engaging in behaviors that benefit personal, community, and planetary health.
We’re excited at the opportunity to partner with PIPs. Knowing what’s good for us does not always mean doing what’s good for us. While gaining emotional knowledge, flexibility, and resilience can be its own reward, PIPs offers ThinkHuman users a little extra motivation. We hope to see greater and more sustained adoption of emotional wellness behaviors as a result.
To learn more about ThinkHuman visit https://www.thinkhuman.tv/.