The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Biases and decision making

AQR's May webinar, featuring author Richard Shotton, with attendees from the US, South Africa and India as well as the UK, drew a global and appreciative audience.

This was my first foray into an AQR webinar. Being based in New York, I dialled into this London-based webinar at 6.45am my time. Glad I did. I found the presentation by Richard Shotton, author of the book, "The Choice Factory: How 25 behavioural biases influence the products we decide to buy", so engaging that during the webinar I actually went online and bought it.

You can’t be a qualitative researcher without having heard of a multitude of examples of how behavioural biases impact decision making, so it's not surprising that at least some of Shotton’s examples were ones that I was familiar with, e.g. Bystander effect or Genovese syndrome (the Kitty Genovese NYC murder, where dozens of people ignored her screams for help because they felt someone else would respond).

This webinar was a wonderful crash course in pulling together disparate behavioural bias tidbits both familiar and new. Shotton shared a mixture of examples from his own research and other academic research that helped provide context on how people make choices and how that, in turn, influences decision.

Important takeaways

  • There is a tendency to overestimate a person’s personality and underestimate the context of the situation when explaining behaviour.
  • We are creatures of habit, conditioned by the "broken escalator phenomenon" to automatically make choices. Shotton explained how the marketing message could adapt to this.
  • When conducting research, people lie, but even when they are trying to tell the truth, there is a good chance they are not telling the truth. Shotton shared what we could do.

I can’t end without saying that I was fascinated by the fact that the three people who were on screen during the webinar (two moderators and the presenter) all had bookcases full of books in the background, so different from the usual sterile green-screen backgrounds of US webinar presenters. Tried as I could, I couldn’t make out the names of the books. Based on this webinar experience, you might want to buy the book. It’s a fast, easy and entertaining read. And I’m definitely going to try to dial in for future AQR webinars.

 

Susan Fader
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