Sean Young (psychologist)

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Sean Young
Sean Young, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

Stanford University
Organization University of California, Los Angeles
Known for Behavioral psychology, Social media analysis, Prediction technology, Digital behavior analysis
Title Associate Professor, UCLA Department of Family Medicine; Executive Director, UCLA Center for Digital Behavior; Executive Director, UC Institute for Predictive Technology; Author of the Wall Street Journal #1 Best Selling book, Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life-for Good

Sean D. Young (born 1979) is a behavioral psychologist and medical school professor with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He serves as the Executive Director of the University of California, Institute for Prediction Technology (UCIPT) and the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior (CDB).


Young received his undergraduate degree in Ethnomusicology from UCLA, and his master's degree in Health Services Research and PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Prior to joining UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow, Young worked in technology and user behavior/human factors at the NASA Ames Research Center and Cisco Systems.[1] Since 2011, he has been a professor with the UCLA Department of Family Medicine.[2]

Research interests[edit]

Young’s research focuses on the science behind human behavioral change. He is known for work on a range of issues related to technology, including how to implement social media in behavioral change interventions,[3][4] how social technologies can predict behavior,[5][6] wearable sensors,[7] and the relationship between online and offline behavior.[8] He has received grants to study how social media and mobile technologies can be used to predict and change behaviors in the areas of health and medicine, consumer behavior, cybersecurity, and crime.[9]

Young has implemented social technologies to address issues related to HIV,[10] drug use prevention, and how to get people to repeat healthy behaviors (e.g., adhere to a medication regimen or exercise routine). As of 2016, he has conducted studies in the United States, Peru, and South Africa, and among homeless youth, undergraduate students, and African American and Latino men who have sex with men.[11][12]

In addition to his research on social networks, Young has become known for studies of how real-time data can be used to monitor disease and substance use–related behaviors.[13] His work in this area focuses on media-sharing websites designed to evaluate people’s activities, intentions, and social interactions. Insight from the resulting body of data ("social big data") is used to understand how people think and act in a variety of situations.

Scientific leadership[edit]

Young is the Founder and Executive Director of UCIPT and the UCLA CDB.[14] These two interdisciplinary centers were formed to advance research on the use of digital and mobile technologies to understand, predict, and change human behavior. Findings from studies published by the centers have been cited by a wide range of media outlets.[15][16] As Executive Director of UCIPT, Young is partnering with people from multiple academic fields and business sectors,[17] with the goal of scaling software applications to a diverse range of potential uses.

In 2015, Young received the UC President’s Research Catalyst Award for a multi-campus collaborative project focusing on social big data.[18]

Young created the Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) online intervention, which combines behavior change science and social media. HOPE has been used to help change people’s behaviors in the following areas: HIV and sexual risk behaviors,[19] general health and fitness, drug use, chronic pain management and opioid addiction, and consumer behavior in business. Studies have shown that people who join HOPE communities are two to three times more likely to change their behavior as people who do not join the communities.[citation needed]

Young is also a speaker, teacher, and author of Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life-for Good, the #1 Wall Street Journal Best Selling book. He has presented his work at forums such as the European Parliament, mHealth Conference, and World Congress as well as to corporations and non-profit organizations. He teaches a rotating course in global health to UCLA undergraduate students and has served as a course instructor at Stanford University.[citation needed]

Selected publications[edit]

Use of big data for health and behavioral prediction

Use of social networking and online communities to improve health behaviors

Global health studies

General behavior change, health, and social media studies

Guidelines for how to use technologies in healthcare and for behavior change

Community-based participatory research



  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
  • Stanford University Social E-challenge Competition Winner
  • Best Paper award at IEEE Virtual Reality
  • Network for AIDS Research in Los Angeles (NARLA) Seed Grant, Principal Investigator
  • UCLA AIDS Institute HIV Prevention Seed Grant
  • UCLA CHIPTS Award for HIV prevention with innovative mobile technologies
  • NIMH K01: Using online social networks for HIV prevention in African-American and Latino MSM
  • UCLA Health System Appreciation Award for Excellence
  • mHealth Training Award
  • Fordham Ethics Award in HIV prevention

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Advanced Controls and Displays @NASA Ames: Personnel". NASA Ames. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  2. ^ a b "Research Faculty". UCLA Health. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  3. ^ "What you need to know before you meet your Grindr date". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  4. ^ "Study: Twitter could be used to track spread of HIV". CBS News. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  5. ^ "HIV in the internet age". The Scientist. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  6. ^ "Analysis: social media can help curb the spread of HIV". Healthcare Informatics. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  7. ^ "Band Aids: Are fitness trackers really moving human health forward?". Smashd. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  8. ^ "Study: social networks facilitate homeless youth sex". CNET. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  9. ^ "Can crime be ethically predicted?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  10. ^ "Combining social media and behavioral psychology could lead to more HIV testing". Infection Control Today. 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  11. ^ "The HOPE social media intervention for global HIV prevention in Peru: a cluster randomised controlled trial - The Lancet HIV". doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(14)00006-X. PMC 4520433. PMID 26236767. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  12. ^ Young, SD; Holloway, I; Jaganath, D; Rice, E; Westmoreland, D; Coates, T (2014-09-01). "Project HOPE: online social network changes in an HIV prevention randomized controlled trial for African American and Latino men who have sex with men". American Journal of Public Health. 104 (9): 1707–1712. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.301992. ISSN 1541-0048. PMC 4151951. PMID 25033137.
  13. ^ "Using social media to better understand, prevent, and treat substance use". National Institutes of Health (NIH). Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  14. ^ "Twitter "big data" used to monitor HIV risk, study shows". Healthcare Informatics. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  15. ^ "News". UC Institute for Prediction Technology. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  16. ^ "Press". UCLA Center for Digital Behavior. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  17. ^ "Research team". UC Institute for Prediction Technology. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  18. ^ "University of California Research Initiatives: 2015 Catalyst Award List". University of California. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  19. ^ "The HOPE social media intervention for global HIV prevention in Peru". The Lancet HIV. Retrieved 2016-02-02.