Tag Archives: psychologist

Ethical Nudges

August 25, 2016 by

When your mom falls asleep in church, you don’t need to yell in her ear, “MOM, wake up!” to keep her head from bobbing. You can just bump her with your elbow.

If you are practicing how to shoot, but your aim is off, you don’t need someone to build a stand to hold your gun level. It is better to have an expert next to you and have him lightly adjust the barrel direction with his finger.

And when you are learning how to lift weights, a coach can watch your knees and hips and correct your stance with a small correction here, another one there.

Nudges. Often, small nudges are all we need in order to do what we are doing better.

A new body of social science research is showing that the same is true in business ethics. If we want to motivate ourselves to do the right thing at work, we do not necessarily have to visit a psychologist to rid ourselves of our weakness of will. Instead, employers can slightly adjust the work environment to “nudge” employees to do well.

Three recent ideas about ethical nudging come from the research of University of North Carolina business professor Sreedhari Desai, Ph.D. She has an interesting YouTube video (titled “Small Nudges Can Create Ethical Behavior”) that is worth checking out.

The first form of ethical nudging pertains to bids and contracts. Dr. Desai wondered if bids can be fair when they include: 1. a description of a service, and 2. one overall price for the service. Through experiment, she found that vendors are more ethical, that is, their bids better reflect the true cost of the service, when they itemize the cost for each aspect of the service. Itemization is a small difference in the bidding process, but one that makes a larger financial difference, and definitely makes an integrity difference.

Workspaces can also be designed to nudge employees to think and act ethically. Again, only small nudges are needed. Through experiment, Dr. Desai showed that when office walls have pictures of aspirational figures (pick your leader…Gandhi? Rosa Parks? Tom Osborne?), employees make better ethical decisions than they do when there are no aspirational pictures.

The third form of ethical nudging that Dr. Desai describes is also about the workspace, specifically, the items we have around us with which to touch or play. Hold onto your hats…Dr. Desai determined that when workspaces include teddy bears and other childhood play items, ethical decision making is enhanced. She speculates that introducing childhood toys into the workplace puts us in mind of a time when life was pure and simple. A slight nudge towards our better selves.

So what do we do with this social science research about ethical nudges? Well, we can ask ourselves if we want to introduce any of the previous three ethical nudges into our business practices. Personally, I am not going to bring a teddy bear to work, but I like the idea of aspirational pictures. And it is simple to break out the costs of service in the bidding process. We can do it when making a bid or ask for it when receiving one.

In addition, this social science research can motivate us to investigate other ethical nudges that can positively affect our work systems. Let me know what your experiments yield, OK?

View “Small Nudges Can Create Ethical Behavior,” Dr. Desai’s video: youtube.com/watch?v=xt8OS92Bd3s B2B

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

Boys Town’s Learning Academy

November 5, 2014 by

At this point in the year, after students have returned from summer break and have readjusted to the routine of school, some students may continue to struggle to keep up academically with their peers. Despite extra practice at home and individualized attention at school, some students require more time and attention before their abilities catch up with their potential.
The Boys Town Learning Academy, run by Boys Town’s Center for Behavioral Health,
uses research-supported strategies to help students catch up and realize their full potential.

The Learning Academy has two components: academic skills training (AST) and content area tutoring (CAT). Skills training is for students who need to improve foundational skills such as reading and math facts, and tutoring focuses on helping students in more advanced and specific subject areas.

Academic Skills Training

AST can help students develop skills in:

  • Reading: knowing letter sounds, recognizing letters, reading with few errors, and understanding what is read.
  • Writing: getting ideas on paper and using proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar.
  • Math: identifying numbers, counting, and understanding math facts.
  • Spelling: spelling common words and memorizing word lists for tests.

Often when students struggle with basic skills, the curriculum keeps moving while they fall further behind, causing confusion and frustration for families. To catch students up, clients who visit the Learning Academy are assigned a trained interventionist who is supervised by a licensed psychologist with a doctorate in School Psychology.

Licensed psychologists develop an individualized plan that is monitored to promote student progress. In addition, the skills training program includes:

  • One-hour, individual sessions (frequency of sessions is determined based on the student’s needs).
  • Frequent parent meetings to share progress.
  • Training of parents, tutors, and teachers to carry out treatment and maintain progress over time.

Content Area Tutoring

The second component of the Learning Academy, tutoring, focuses on older students with subject-specific challenges in English, math, science, and social studies.

Before students begin attending tutoring sessions, they meet with a licensed psychologist who evaluates their strengths and needs to develop an individualized plan. Then each student is assigned a high school or college student who tutors them for one hour twice a week.

Sending your child to tutoring at the Learning Academy isn’t just going to improve grades for one class. Students will also receive training in specific skills to improve organization, note-taking, and prioritizing work and assignments for long-term projects. Learning Academy psychologists and tutors want students to walk away with an increased understanding of the subject they once struggled with, and the skills needed to be successful with challenging courses in the future.

Is the Learning Academy for You?

One of the unique things about the Learning Academy is that it is developed and supervised by licensed psychologists. As psychologists, they apply their training in research-supported academic and behavioral interventions to improve specific skills and to teach parents effective ways to support student learning and motivation. Both the Academic Skills Training and the Content Area Tutoring programs are goal-oriented, meaning Boys Town’s psychologists supervise and evaluate student progress on a regular basis. The Learning Academy provides an avenue for licensed psychologist to share some of the strategies that they know about with families in-need.

The Learning Academy is a service open to all students in Omaha and the surrounding areas. If you think your student would benefit from individualized academic attention, check out the
Learning Academy page on the Boys Town Pediatrics website, under the Counseling Services tab.


Kristin E. Bieber, Ph.D.


Winning Psychology

June 19, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A burst of electricity raced through the Omaha crowd. The score was tied, 60-60, with the clock nearly exhausted. Only 2.5 seconds remained. Then, Doug McDermott sank a three-pointer. Fifteen thousand blue-and-white bodies leapt to their feet.

Creighton won the mid-season conference match against St. John’s by a single basket. McDermott not only sank the winning three-pointer, he also scored a season-high 39 points.

Dr. Jack Stark was taking mental notes from the sidelines. As usual, Stark was standing amongst the team. He is the official sports psychologist for the Bluejays, a volunteer position that he has held for seven years.

Stark previously worked with Cornhusker football (1989-2004), with Omaha Mavericks hockey, and a host of other collegiate and professional programs. For the past 14 years, he’s been in the pits of NASCAR. He currently works intensely with six drivers: Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (winner of the Daytona 500 this year).

Altogether, Stark has been part of 20 national championships. He earned three championship rings with the Huskers, where he was instrumental in launching a player feedback council.

Players need someone to consult when crisis strikes off the field, he says, someone who isn’t the coach.

Stark continues working with former Huskers coach Frank Solich at Ohio University and recently began helping the Wyoming football team and Omaha Lancers hockey team. His accolades, mementos and signed posters adorn his home office in West Omaha. The former clinical psychologist (originally from Hastings, Neb.) refers to his collegiate and high school sports consulting as a “hobby.” NASCAR and business consulting provides his income.

Despite Stark’s privileged position to watch some of the world’s most memorable sporting events, he says that the Creighton Bluejays’ narrow win over St. John’s remains a particularly insightful moment for anyone wishing to understand one of sports history’s most special relationships—the relationship between one of college basketball’s all-time greats with his coach/father.

“Doug McDermott absolutely loves to play for his father. You can tell,” Stark says, recalling the frigid night in late January when coach Greg McDermott turned to his son with a simple compliment: “Doug, it was a great game, great effort.”

The younger McDermott was beaming in response, not because he had single-handedly carried the team. Rather, he was simply happy to help his father.

“I’ve been blessed to have worked with Heisman winners, players of the year, All-Americans, Olympic gold medalists, all of them,” Stark says, “but none of them are as good as Doug McDermott.”


September 24, 2013 by

One of the most common neurobehavioral disorders found among children is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And rates are on the rise.

Dr. Ashley Harlow, psychologist at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, believes that this spike in diagnoses is due to a combination of factors. “Parents, teachers, and [health care] providers are more aware of the signs and symptoms and, therefore, are investigating this diagnosis as a possibility,” he says.

Because ADHD is so prevalent, there is concern that children are being misdiagnosed.

Misdiagnosis can go many ways, explains Dr. Harlow. “I think misdiagnosis is a problem, although I think it is important to consider misdiagnosis as both diagnosing another condition as ADHD and diagnosing ADHD as another condition.

“I see kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD because they do not like their teacher, they do not listen to their parents, or they do not follow through on what their parents tell them to do,” says Dr. Harlow. “These behaviors do not necessarily indicate ADHD.”

Also complicating the issue are instances where children have ADHD and are instead diagnosed with another disorder, like Autism Spectrum Disorder, or when high-school and college students use ADHD medication to support studying. “In these cases of students seeking study aids, misdiagnosis might occur because of misrepresentation of the symptoms by the patient,” adds Dr. Harlow.

Dr. Harlow says that visible signs of ADHD can include behaviors like “difficulty sitting still in the classroom, disorganization in completing homework or turning it in, making careless mistakes, staring off into space, interacting with peers in immature ways, or starting chores but not finishing them.”

Many children may demonstrate these behaviors, so Dr. Harlow advises careful consideration before jumping to conclusions. “[Health care] providers, in consultation with families, work to determine if enough symptoms are present and impairment is at a level to warrant a clinical diagnosis.”

The CDC states that “children with ADHD do not grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.” Therefore, it is important to treat children who are afflicted with ADHD.

Treatment of ADHD focuses on reducing the impact of the symptoms, not eliminating them. “It is important to remember that ADHD is a neurologically based disorder, and so improving behavior likely means learning to manage symptoms rather than removing the symptoms entirely,” explains Dr. Harlow.

He recommends a combination of medical and behavioral health interventions, including setting up the environment (classroom or home) to be predictable and organized for the child and to make consequences immediate and consistent.

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center offers free parent education sessions related to topics surrounding ADHD. For more information, visit ChildrensOmaha.org/BehavioralHealth.