Sensemaking Explained

At Susan Bell Research we've pioneered a new approach to qualitative research that helps us understand human behaviour in a new way. We call it Sensemaking.

Sensemaking is a framework to use in qualitative research.

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The neuroscience of making sense of each other

The drive to make sense

One of my current preoccupations is sense-making, the drive that people have to make sense of things, so  I am always on the look-out for more information about it.  I was therefore delighted to find this piece from Leonhard Schilbach about how human beings make sense of each other, especially how we do that during social interaction.

Two neural networks

It seems that we have two distinct neural networks which help us make sense of other people:

  1. Mirror neurons which we use to make sense of other people based on our own understanding of ourselves; and
  2. A Mentalising Network where we have a ‘third person’ grasp of other people’s mental states.

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Sensemaking Case Study -vegetarianism and plant-based foods

Sensemaking explains the evolving vegetarian experience perfectly

The vegetarian landscape is evolving rapidly, with the advent of plant-based foods. Becoming a vegetarian was always a big decision but now it has become more complicated. Our research based on sensemaking shows that becoming a vegetarian is not just a choice between different food products; it's a manifestation of someone's self-identity at a stage in their life. The decision to stop eating meat is only one part of it - vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians and others review and revise their diet on an almost daily basis as they 'make sense of' how to balance their diet, their social beliefs and their social relationships. 

We know that some vegetarians and vegans will never eat anything that looks or tastes like meat. However, plant-based meat substitutes do appeal to a segment of the vegetarian and vegan market.  However, there are some strict rules that marketers must follow. There must be no risk - perceived or real - that a product sold to look like meat actually contains meat.  This fear is a strong deterrent for some consumers.

We have uncovered key 'identity flashpoints' that show us the inner tensions and conflicts that are often the trigger for behaviour change.

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