BE – New news or BS?

March 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Behavioural Economics, or BE. It’s a hot topic right now in the world of research. It’s also a challenging topic for us to debate as it cuts to the core of what we do, how we do it and how much it will cost business and government to do it! Luckily we have a number of great local and international minds discussing what it is, what it isn’t and what it means for market and social research.

In short, BE suggests that traditional economics is unrepresentative of actual behaviour because of its focus on rational behaviour, which doesn’t actually exist. I am not sure if this is all new news, as, we have always known that many decisions are made at an unconscious level and that we may not know why we do something. However, this doesn’t mean that rational decision making doesn’t exist or isn’t useful to measure at times. Abi Hill and Stephen Phillips’ recent article in Research World entitled ‘We’re only human’ suggests we have to review how we do things and take out our own in going perspectives, “‘anchors and predefined constructs” ’, which, they argue, marginalises the consumers perspective – wow, they are fighting words indeed!.

As is the case with many of these topics, there always seems to be more questions than conclusive answers:-

• Does this change what we do or just how we interpret the information we collect on stated behaviour?
• How do we do undertake this form of analysis cost effectively and accurately?
• If asking decontextualised questions decontextualized invalidates results, how do we get the context required?
• What about passive forms of data capture and how do they stack up against the privacy code?
• Does this open up new opportunities for MR?
• What are the implications for qualitative research and content analysis?

So there is a lot to debate and whilst it is challenging, it’s not new news for research professionals in Australia. Much of the innovation within our industry over the past 20 years has been trying to address the issues laid out in BE theory. We have a different role to play than most economists and we are being asked to make thousands of predictions and forecasts every month in an effort to help business and government make better decisions. Long live the anchors and structures that enable improved decisions and let’s explore this brave new world of BE and see what’s possible and practical.


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