I was cleaning up my desktop this week and stumbled across this draft post I wrote about Behavioural Economics almost a year ago. Rather than re-write it, I thought I’d post it as is. Though now I’m seriously late to the party I think!


This week I’ve been thinking about Behavioural Economics. I feel like I’m a little late to the party writing a blog about this!  Particularly since people have talked about this since the 70s!  Still, it’s only in the last few years that airport bookshops have filled with the different popular books, and with this, the subject has gained a lot more mainstream momentum.

The research, discussion and thinking around BE is fascinating to me. I can clearly remember the feeling when I was reading Predictably Irrational (some time ago now), and thinking “Yes, Exactly!” This is exactly what we’ve been seeing, observing and saying in much of our own research, but now there is a great framework and academic body of work around to support it.

It has been fantastic to see how BE is increasingly becoming part of the discussion. Some would say slowly, but at conferences we’re seeing more and more discussions of how BE is being used to draft research tasks, analyse research findings and form strategy that taps into both the conscious and unconscious ways we experience the world we live in.

What I love about BE is that sometimes the answer can be so simple. In Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein talk of the case study in Mexico City. Authorities were looking to reduce heart disease. Rather than investing in another campaign, or health initiative, they instead asked restaurants to take the salt off the tables. A small ‘nudge’, having great effect.

This week I stumbled on to BrainJuicer’s excellent paper, ‘Research In a World without Questions’. Have you read it? When we look at consumer behaviour in the context of System 1 and System 2 thinking, it has great implications for our research and how we approach it.

I think the industry is rising to the challenge – either knowingly or unknowingly. We are moving more towards observation, and less reliant on opinions. We are talking more about emotion, and less about people’s attitudes and beliefs. And pleasingly for me, we are increasingly embracing projective and motivational research, in place of direct questioning.

There will always be a place for traditional research approaches, however, as researchers, we need to evolve our way of doing things to ensure that System 2 does not get too great a voice in our findings.

What has BE brought to your way of thinking? What articles / books / resources are you ‘go tos’?


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