Inspiration Sessions: The Psychology of Behavioural Change

This afternoon saw the third instalment of OMD’s Inspiration Sessions. These are internal presentations which focus on a range of advertising, marketing and media trends, providing an opportunity to see some of the most interesting work from about the agency, across the UK and around the world.

Today’s session was hosted by Communications Planner Alex Rubins, whose enthusiasm for behavioural economics formed the basis of what was to be an eye-opening session titled: ‘The Psychology of Behavioural Change’.

Alex gave us a whistle-stop tour of the pillars of behavioural economics and the principal theories that have made their way into the advertising world.

To kick start the session we were introduced to 3 important assumptions that run throughout much of behavioural psychology:

  • We have two selves: the pilot and the autopilot. To put it simply, we have two thinking systems. The autopilot system is automatic thinking, feeling and behavioural habits (that tends to rely on heuristics) whereas pilot thinking is conscious, reasoning and intentional.
  • Everything is relative. Everything is judged relative to something else and we prefer to use obvious rather than difficult points of comparison.
  • We are a product of our history. Your autopilot relies on perceptual cues, and some of this comes down to unchanging human instinct.

With these basic concepts of the human psyche in mind (pun unintended), we were then shown how these, and other ideas rooted in behavioural psychology, have been drawn on by the advertising industry. Below are some of the key principles that marketers can use to help drive consumer choice and action:

  1. Framing: Our decisions and preferences are affected by how information is presented to us.
  2. Loss aversion: The fact we ‘feel’ losses twice as hard as we ‘feel’ gains.
  3. Anchoring: Initial exposure to a number, however spurious, serves as a reference point and influences subsequent judgements.
  4. Commitment and Consistency: An earlier commitment, no matter how small, can lead to a bigger commitment in the future.
  5. Social Proof: Your actions depend on your perception of other people’s actions.
  6. Pratfall Effect: Admitting your flaws can make you more appealing.

To finish, Alex took us back to our days at University with a recommended reading list, so if you want to get clued up on the topic check out the following:

‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, Daniel Kahneman

‘Nudge’, Richard H.Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein

‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, Robert B. Cialdini

‘Predictably Irrational’, Dan Ariely

‘The Tipping Point’, Malcolm Gladwell


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