As Head of Behavioural Sciences at Corporate Culture Group, I’m always keen to explore the latest thinking and insights from what is a rapidly-evolving field. When I heard that AQR was hosting sessions on the increasing impact of behavioural economics from both a researcher and client perspective, I was quick to book my place for fear of missing out (a perfect example of FOMO in action). My anticipation was justified. A sell-out audience was treated to three papers from leading proponents of Behavioural Economics — something, they argued, that many research agencies continue only to pay lip service to.

Anyone following the behavioural sciences in recent years will be aware of its fast-evolving terminology. And we didn’t have to waitlong for a new concept to land, courtesy of Seamus O’Farrell, Director at Brand Salience — ‘Behavioural Emotionomics’. He argued that more attention should be given to embedding consumer emotions at the heart of brand and communication strategies to better tap into System 1 decision-making. And he challenged researchers to embrace emerging technologies and innovations (such as facial coding and emotion analytics) to capture ‘pre-cognitive responses’.

Caroline Hayter, Co-Founder and Strategist at Acacia Avenue, ran with this theme and proclaimed the death of the focus group. With our insights from the behavioural sciences, she questioned why the industry continues to rely on focus groups and their many associated biases. She, too, laid down a challenge for researchers to be braver in their methods, and encouraged them not to fall prey to the status quo.

With energy and enthusiasm to burn, Crawford Hollingworth, Founder at The Behavioural Architects, proclaimed that this is just the start of the age of behavioural enlightenment! Walking through numerous heuristics and cognitive biases, he argued that the next stage for behavioural economics will be a focus on ‘nuances’, such as dynamic vs static norms, gain vs loss framing and natural frequencies vs percentages. Drawing on real-world case studies, he demonstrated how these nuances reveal rich insights into what makes us all tick.

I left the session with plenty to reflect on and look forward to the continuing evolution of behavioural economics and its impact on understanding and influencing behaviour.