Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions
At the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, Colleen Welsh-Allen of Kantar Health provided a practical guide to behavioral science, the heuristics that most affect market research, and some clear cut ways to conduct better research with an understanding of these concepts. Behavioral science teaches us that humans are non-rational decision makers who make nearly all their decisions by using mental shortcuts (or "rules of thumb") called heuristics. As researchers we need to take these heuristics into account with our guide writing, moderating, analysis and reporting to uncover real motivations, feelings, and perceptions, and help our clients grasp them. Ultimately, to counsel our clients on how to change behavior, we need to understand behavior better.
Heuristics drive "System 1" thinking which is automatic, effortless, and top of mind. To survive, humans rely on System 1 thinking the majority of the time. "System 2" thinking is slow, deliberate, logical and calculating, and is used when we are learning something new. Since we as humans use both types of thinking in our lives, our research should incorporate techniques that use both systems of thinking, such as mind maps, blob tree, photo sorts, rapid fire questioning, and narrative and cognitive interviewing.
Putting it into practice:
Colleen shared practical implications of some of the many heuristics people use. Some of the best examples are as follows:
- LOSS AVERSION: People are more focused on avoiding loss than gaining, so consider both what respondents, as well as your clients, are concerned about losing
- PEAK END RULE: People assess experiences based on how they were at their peak (whether pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended so be sure to capture their sentiments at these junctures
- EGO: Maintaining "face" is a predominant human need which leads people to misstate actual behavior. Thus if capturing behavior is important to study objectives, find methodologies that allow you to see behavior rather than hear about reported behavior.
Some of the heuristics provide the scientific explanation to confirm what we already know to be good research practices such as the following:
- Word questions as neutrally as possible to avoid bias (FRAMING heuristic);
- Ask those questions first that require respondents not be primed. Also, be aware of anything in your appearance or demeanor, or facility surroundings that may bias the respondent (PRIMING heuristic);
- Capture top of mind, "gut" reactions to concepts and ads before delving deeper, and take note of body language (AFFECT heuristic).
Colleen's presentation not only satisfies intellectual curiosity about behavioral science but also provides the rationale behind some important research practices. It introduces new tools and techniques that many researchers may not be aware of to improve the value of research, in terms of both how defend the reasons for techniques to clients, and through the results themselves.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
HMC Marketing Research