Are Your Respondents ‘Predictably Irrational’?

Professor Ariely says in his book ‘Predictably Irrational’ that ‘irrational behaviour is a part of human nature’.  In his 20 years of researching behavioural economics, he has discovered that ‘people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion’.

In his book, professor Ariely gives numerous examples of how individuals aren’t always rational and don’t always know what they want to do.

Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioural economics, Ariely says can ‘show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money’.

So, What Has This Got To Do With Online Surveys?

Well, as Gina Sverdlov pointed out on the Forrester blog last year, this idea ‘is troubling for market researchers, since it’s our job to understand what drives consumers’.

In the blog post, Gina gave a couple of examples of how behavioural economics can wreak havoc on market research. She asks ever wondered ‘why you take generic over brand-name prescriptions? Why you’re an organ donor? Is it because of your financial sense or your values — or could it be because it was simply the default (and hence the simplest) option?’

Believe it or not, various trials and tests in behavioural economics have pointed to the fact that ‘people tend to go with the default option but don’t realize they do’.

So, when we’re undertaking market research, whether it be through focus groups, one on ones, polls or online surveys, is there a way that we can take control over these biases?

Gina says that while ‘you can’t prevent them altogether; there are a few measures that you can take to limit them’ adding that ‘there will always be biases in market research, but making improvements in the way we conduct research can be as simple as having an understanding of some of these limitations’.

Limiting Bias Top Tips:Car Salesman

Phrase Questions So That They ‘Put The Respondent In The Right Frame Of Mind’.

Gina says that ‘it always helps to describe the situation to the respondent’. For example, instead of saying ‘do you prefer Ford of Kia’ in an effort to determine which car a respondent might prefer to buy, ask:

You’re looking for a new car and the car salesman offers to show you the new Ford range and the new Kia range, you’re on a tight schedule and can only go and view one, which do you choose?’

We Must ‘Derive How Consumers Make Choices Instead Of Asking Directly’.

Gina says that ‘rather than asking respondents what is most important to their purchase decision, use quantitative analytics to correlate product-brand associations with where they shop most’.

TescoWe Need To ‘Understand That People Will Answer Anything’.

Thirdly, as the subtitle says, people will answer anything.

What do we mean by this? Well, if I sent you a survey that asked you to list the 3 supermarkets that you shop at most, behavioural economics says that you will give me the names of 3 supermarkets even if you’ve only ever stepped foot in two of them and have no intention of ever visiting the third for so much as a pint of milk.

Therefore, market researchers should construct their questions with ‘behavioural economics in mind’.