What is Behavioural Science

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Modern Wisdom #592

In this episode Chris speaks to behavioural scientist and author Richard Shotton

Since I discovered Modern Wisdom, I have been learning a lot about evolutionary psychology, which moves nicely alongside my interest in ancestral practices and how we used to live.

In this podcast you will learn that the human brain isn’t designed to be rational. There are cheat codes to get the brain to believe strange things, do strange things, and change in ways you might not anticipate. 

Richard Shotton has one of the best insights into this world of mental models, psychology, consumer behaviour, principles for advertising and social change.

What is Behavioural Science

At the beginning of the podcast at 4 min 30 secs, Richard explains what behavioural science is. He says “sometimes the terminology can be confusing” “it’s essentially what we used to call social psychology. It’s the study of how people actually behave, rather than how they claim to behave. And I would argue anyone who is an entrepreneur. Anyone who works in marketing. Anyone who is trying to influence other people, should be interested in this topic. Because if you are in any of those groups, you are in the business of behavioural change.”

The theory of behavioural science “is robust. Which actually differentiates it from a lot of business theory. If you think about some very popular business theories, they are based on elegant arguments. The problem with elegance is, it is not often accurate.”

“What’s great about behavioural science is it’s never based on logic alone. It is always proved by experiments, so we can give these findings genuine credibility.”

“The final big strength is its range. There are literally tens of thousands of studies. So whatever category you work in, whatever discipline you work in, there are so many behavioural science studies, that whatever challenge is in front of you, there is going to be experimental proof that will help you solve that challenge.”

The Margarine Study

“There is a really old study by psychologist Louis Cheskin where he was working with margarine manufacturers in the 1940s’, who were trying to win over consumers to stop them buying butter and replace this with margarine.”

“If you went out and directly questioned those shoppers, they said they don’t buy margarine because it tastes awful.”

“But Cheskin was suspicious of this data. So he set up an experiment where he got a speaker and invited local people to come and listen to the speaker. And after they listened to the speaker there was a buffet laid on. Part of that buffet was bread and a spread.”

“Sometimes people thought they were eating bread and butter. Sometimes they thought they were eating bread and margarine.”

“In reality, Cheskin had switched things around. He dyed the butter grey so it looked like 1940’s margarine. And he dyed the margarine yellow so it looked like butter. When people ate the margarine masquerading as butter, they said it tasted wonderful. And when they ate butter masquerading as margarine, they said it tasted awful.”

“So what he showed by that was it wasnt the taste that mattered, it was the colour. What we expect to experience is a massive guide to what we actually experience. And one of the things that sets those expectations is the colour and the look of our food.”

“What was interesting about this was Cheskin recognised that a direct questioning of consumers is problematic. What people tell us is often inaccurate in terms of their genuine motivations.”

“Psychologists say that people confabulate. Often they try to tell the truth, but because they don’t have full intro perspective and insights into their own motivations, when they give answers in focus groups or surveys, they are trying to be honest, but those answers tend to be misleading”

“So what psychologists do instead is set up tests and control situations to observe how people behave, which drives more accurate and scientifically based answers.”

What You Will Learn

In this podcast you should expect to learn results of behavioural science studies which highlight how our brains are hijacked by social expectations. This proves that asking direct marketing questions is not the correct way to get results or drive your business direction.

Scientific studies into the behaviour of people is the reality of how we think.

As well as the above, also expect to learn 

  • The 8 psychological biases.
  • Why people self edit their answers based on what they think society would expect them to say.
  • Mating preferences and why women tend to date men taller and higher up the financial ladder.
  • The marketing secret about behaviour change that everyone forgets about. 
  • How to make habit formation absolutely seamless.
  • Why IKEA is so successful even though they don’t make your furniture.
  • A hack that any advertising campaign can use to make it stick in people’s minds.
  • How to fix the problem of choice paralysis.
  • And, as always, much more…

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