We’ve all had bad department store shopping experiences. The aggressively cheerful salesperson. The unforgiving glare of the dressing room. The overstuffed racks of garments where none of the sizes fit, and the ones that do, don’t come in your favorite color.
The advent of online shopping has helped consumers gain more control over their shopping experiences. But digital purchases are often a gamble, too. You scroll through endless webpages to find the perfect boots only to discover your size is on back order for two months. And the items you purchase frequently disappoint: The jacket that looked so elegant on the website’s model looks awkward on your frame.
Retail prognosticators claim that artificial intelligence and other new technologies will offer shoppers salvation. In the not-so-distant future, armies of robots using retina recognition software (à la “Minority Report”) will tailor their sales pitches to your preferences and price point. Voice-activated assistants and digital mannequins will help you to find just the right fit. Shopping from home will be a breeze too: Virtual reality headsets will allow you to “try on” clothes and sample items ranging from a tube of lipstick to a tennis racket. Two-day shipping? How antiquated. In the future, your package will arrive via drones in less than two hours. It may sound like science fiction but, in fact, many stores are testing these innovations and have plans to roll them out to customers.
We can’t remember any numbers without our cell phones and have difficulty driving without Waze. We increasingly rely on technology to perform basic cognitive tasks, and this choice is becoming more automatic and less conscious. We assume technology improves our choices. But does it?
A series of experiments will be used to examine the topic, leaving the viewer with the question: when do I assume greater rationality from technology, and how does that affect my expectations about my own behavior?
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx.
Both social scientists and policy makers have long puzzled over a basic question: Why do humans so often refuse to act in their own best interests? This ranges from behavior as simple as snacking on chips when we all know fruit is healthier to spending money on extravagant luxuries when we should be saving for retirement.
The answer is that our choices are shaped by both non-conscious processes and the social influences that shape our behavior. “Behavioral science” seeks to unpack these influences and can discover ways to encourage good economic decisions, healthy lifestyles and other beneficial habits. So I, as a behavioral scientist, was heartened to see the Obama administration issue an executive order in September 2015 calling for incorporating behavioral insights into federal policies and programs.
Behavioral science is kind of “cool” right now (cool, for academia anyway). There has been a great deal of mainstream attention paid to behavioral science recently, notably in books like Freakonomics and Predictably- Irrational to columns like New York Magazine’s The Science of Us, and television shows like National Geographic’s “Brain Games,” and various Ted Talks. There’s also increased attention on how behavioral science can move beyond the laboratory, with its interesting, quirky cool studies, to really be used as a tool to help shape behavior and policy. Thus, Obama’s creation of a behavioral science team within the White House could really give a boost to cross pollination between academics and policymakers that could result in public policy that would encourage healthier, more fulfilling lives. This could range from encouraging people to enroll in thrift plans, pay fines that hang over their heads, eat low-fat diets, or get out to vote.
Unfortunately, there has been a chasm between the kinds of tools that we use in academia and the policies needed in the real world. Most people outside of academia do not read the arcane articles in academic journals. But we have some great and interesting ideas percolating in campus “laboratories” that we need to share with budget-strapped policymakers dealing with real-world issues.
A few years ago, I overheard two of my MBA students talking after class about their “personal brands.”
At the time, I was amused. But then I kept hearing more about this notion of “my brand.” I noticed it was the subject of articles in Forbes and Harvard Business Review. Suddenly, I saw book upon book devoted to the topic. The conversation centered around bolstering your personal brand by tweeting the right things, highlighting certain attributes in your LinkedIn profile and ingratiating yourself with other powerful personal brands.
Frankly, I bristle at the phrase “personal brand.” We are not products, we are people. The way we present ourselves should be authentic, not part of a sales pitch or advertising campaign. But then I got to thinking: is there a way to apply branding’s best practices to develop greater leadership?
The days of the passive patient and omnipotent Marcus Welby-like physician are long gone. Since the 1990s, consumer empowerment in health care has been increasing, most notably with the advent of direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medicines. Then, the rise of digital media allowed consumers to search symptoms and create communities around common disease experiences. More recently, the ability to shop for health insurance through health care exchanges and obtain treatment at drug store clinics has led to a new age of consumer empowerment.
We’ve gone from a B-to-B model to a B-to-C model in health care. This shift in power to consumers has many implications when it comes to how we make decisions about our health care. Here are six ways that a behavioral lens can help us understand the implications of empowering consumers in health care:
Heuristics are very important. These mental shortcuts or “rules of thumb” allow us to make decisions efficiently. However, these judgments are subject to non-rational (or biased) influences in the marketplace. For example, a retail promotion like a drug store coupon can affect the price on which patients “anchor” their judgments about the appropriate cost of health care. And a retail clinic can affect the appeal of non-healthy alternatives with their location, like in the candy aisle. While this may not have been a big deal before, it is an important consideration in a B2C retail environment.