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  • Writer's pictureJason Riis

Skin and Human Behavior

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Skin is such a richly human feature. It bonds us, it identifies us, it protects us. As a dermatologist, your day-to-day work helps humans feel right about this most human feature. Your intimate connection to skin gives you unique perspective on human behavior.

This is valuable perspective to have in the new era of behavioral science.

Behavioral science has been the proverbial overnight success that took generations to achieve. In a way, it started when the Undoing Project started (borrowing the title from Michael Lewis’s great book which outlines the 50 year history of the work of the great psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman).

Tversky’s premature death in 1996, left Kahneman alone to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. But Kahneman was by no means alone in his pursuit of the science of behavior. He is credited with uniting two scientific fields (psychology and economics) and that “Uniting Project” has been joined by thousands of behavioral scientists in recent decades, among them, Kahneman’s dear friend, the economist Richard Thaler who won the Nobel Prize in 2017. The next generation includes (almost) household names like Adam Grant, Jonah Berger, Katy Milkman, and Dan Ariely.

Dermatology is well positioned to champion the arrival of behavioral science. In addition to the fundamental human qualities in skin, there are also fundamentally human aspects to your consumer-facing businesses. Your patients act much more like human consumers have acted for millennia – they are not an artifact of the modern hospital era.

Behavioral dermatology is here (and, in your work, always has been). Let’s start talking about it.

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