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Going back to 1997 - Behavioural Economics and us

In 1997, I bought a book called 'Research on Judgement and Decision Making: currents, connections, and controversies' edited by Goldstein and Hogarth. It was here that I first came across Kahneman and Tversky and their work on such things as representativeness heuristic. I was hooked. I think my favourite piece was one on 'arguing with yourself', because it is something I do often!

I was working on insurance projects at the time, trying to figure out why some people saw risks, where everyone else saw opportunity. I used many of the insights I learned here with my clients, but did not make them public.

Twenty or more years later, I still find this whole field fascinating, but I am also frustrated.

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How Behavioural Economics and Qualitative Research can Work Together

This is the second of two posts about using Behavioural Economics (B.E.) and qualitative research together. The first post described ways in which qualitative research could benefit from a ‘broadened’ view of B.E. This second post describes how B.E. and qualitative research can work together, by making the best of both worlds.

B.E. and qualitative research can work well together because they share a parent – contemporary social science.

B.E. was revolutionary because it applied the same social science to economics that has been used by social-science trained researchers for decades.  ‘Everything is relative’, ‘people are influenced by what others think’, and ‘behaviour is best researched in context’, are all part of the B.E. canon and have also been part of the best kind of qualitative approach for a long time. 

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Do people have the attention span of a goldfish?

Are you afraid that technology has taught us all to live in a fast multi-tasking world so that your customers and stakeholders have ‘the attention span of a goldfish’?

Don’t worry. Just because many of us multitask while watching movies, that doesn’t mean that we can’t pay attention when we have a goal to achieve. This is a nice infographic from Google on how people pay attention, by leaning forward, or leaning back. Whether someone ‘leans forward’ mode or ‘leans back’ mode depends on their goals at the time. *

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Getting the most out of Behavioural Economics in Qualitative Research

Are you considering using qualitative research for strategic positioning, brand development, or customer experience projects? Do you also want to use the insights you have learnt from Behavioural Economics  (B.E.) but worry whether B.E. is compatible with qualitative research?  

Perhaps you have heard people say that qualitative research isn’t useful because ‘people don’t know why they do things’ for example, which has led some people to conduct research only about behaviour and not about what motivates people to behave as they do, or about how people think.

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