Welcome to Leigh Caldwell, RWC’s newest correspondent. Leigh is author of the Psychology of Price and partner at the Irrational Agency. He’s joining our team to write about all things behavioural economics. In his first post he talks about the three leading theories of decision making.
“Oh to be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing.” Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
Now is a very exciting time to be in marketing and market research. It seems we are in the middle of a reset, a reboot, a reinvention of methods and models like none before. Increasing numbers of practitioners are participating in a dizzy dance of innovation and reworking.
But this reinvention of market research is not merely the product of what the shiny new technologies enable us to do (mobile is an example well known to Research World readers). Rather, it is happening because many of the ideas and working assumptions our community has relied on for generations to animate our research methods – and the intellectual frameworks used to interpret the data we collect – are being challenged by a singularly rapid explosion of insight from the behavioural and cognitive sciences and a popular interest in what these academic disciplines are telling us about ourselves.
It’s a little like the early years of modern medicine. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was still possible to find practices endorsed in medical textbooks that we have long since rejected – blood-letting being one very dramatic example.
Clearly, blood-letting is no longer widely practised – most of us would run a mile from any doctor who recommended it – but its decline seems to have been driven less by a thorough analysis of its efficacy as treatment (it’s often difficult to do this patient by patient, case by case – modern medical science still struggles with it) than by broader changes in the understanding of how human physiology works. Challenges to the ideas and assumptions in medicine have been brought about by huge amounts of work done elsewhere in the medical forest.
Blood-letting made sense within the confines of the Galenic model which had dominated European medicine for nearly two millennia. Its theoretical justification was grounded in the widely accepted notion that human bodies and minds are rooted in four different substances (the “humours”). In medieval medicine, for example, much illness was seen as a result of imbalance between these substances, and that’s why you needed to “leech” or drain the blood of your patient. However, against the background of modern medicine, blood-letting just seems odd and even barbaric.
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RWC has brought together two of the biggest names in behavioural economics. Here Mark Earls, author of Herd, talks to one of the founders of the discipline George Loewenstein about ’empathy gaps’, how the brain reacts to issues of privacy, and the future of Behavioural Economics.
Deliberately distracting survey participants isn’t generally good research practice. And people investigating shopper behaviour don’t often start by spraying a store with perfume But these are a couple of the techniques Tom Ewing and the team at BrainJuicer have been using to test System 1 modes of decision making.
In the third of an ongoing series from the InDecision Blog, Elina Halonen and Neda Kerimi talk to some of the leading figures in judgment and decision-making psychology and behavioural economics. This month they talk to author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely.