Researchers BE-having differently…

27 April 2016

By Gillian Kane

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a behavioural economics session at the Insight Management Academy Group (IMAG). The event was a real call to arms for researchers to champion behavioural economics as a mindset and not let other industries grab the lead. Speakers from both agency and client-side gave really thought-provoking examples of behavioural economics (BE) experiments – including the impact of playing of playing traditionally French music on French wine sales and German music on German wine sales – we are definitely not as rational as we think! The other real take-away for me was the message “just do it” – researchers don’t need a PhD in BE just a practical understanding and in some cases clients can be put off by the jargon.
One useful mnemonic debated on the day was the Cabinet Office’s MINDSPACE to encapsulate the biases and influences that affect our behaviour and decision-making: Messenger, Incentives, Norms, Defaults, Salience, Priming, Affect, Commitments and Ego. As an integral part of good questionnaire design, we reflect BE principles by default by, for example, examining how we order questions to avoid leading the respondent, being aware of socially desirable responses, and considering how we prime and frame the research. The question for me though is how do we reflect BE principles throughout the research process from design to analysis and reporting? Could we reflect the MINDSPACE framework in any of the cultural assessment or change management studies that r2i conducts? If we are looking to change behaviours it could be a useful starting point to consider who is or should be communicating the change, what are the rewards that would help encourage “good” behaviours and what are the formal and informal norms at play.


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