Home Forums General Discussion What is your favorite example to use to explain behavioral science to someone?

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    • #7857
      Teis Jorgensen

      I often rely on the same couple of examples to explain the types of insights that behavioral science can generate. Depending on the person, I’ll give a more or less complex answer:

      • Ever decide to go to the gym, but don’t actually follow through on that intention? Behavioral science can provide lots of explanations why, and different tips for how to make that action easier. Including pick out gym clothes the night before (which lowers hassles and serves as a reminder of past preferences and intentions), or temptation bundling.
      • The example Dan Ariely uses in his TED Talk on taking a vacation to Rome or Paris

      I’m curious  — what are your preferred examples to explain, what is behavioral science?

    • #8072
      Michael Stern

      This is big one! I generally start with the distinction between structural problems and behavioral problems — e.g. did someone not go to the gym because it was two hours from their house or because an alarm induced a temporarily hampering psychological state? Most audiences seem to find that at least somewhat useful. Expanding into what a behavioral problem is, I then (usually) say that there are all sorts of contexts that elicit psychological phenomena that prevent people from turning intentions into actions– I think most of  BSci falls somewhere in there. It’s always good to not assume people know specific examples (I don’t know Dan Ariely’s vacation one, e.g.) … better to give a concise explanation of the setup just in case.

    • #8077
      Dani Grodsky

      I would say that I typically use one of two strategies to give a brief example of behavioral science.

      The first is describing some of the areas with obvious and relatable intention-action gaps like eating healthier, going to the gym or saving for retirement. It is typically easy for others, regardless of their knowledge of behavioral science, to identify with reasons why someone might want to follow through on these things but don’t. For example, you buy a liter of soda and drink it all much more quickly than you planned, end up waking up too late to fit in a gym visit or decide to spend money you might save on eating out with friends. Behavioral science helps to systematically identify the reasons why these drop offs happen and tips and tools to support follow through (like sticking to only have soda outside of the house, finding a gym buddy you are accountable to and having savings drawn directly from your pay check before you even see it in your bank account).

      The second strategy is to highlight one of a list of my favorite psychological biases (what can I say, I am a behavioral science nerd!). For example, you might ask them if they know how a household item like a microwave, blender or bicycle works and then ask them to actually describe the details. Most people are overconfident about their knowledge of how something works until they try to go more in-depth with their explanation – this is known as the illusion of explanatory depth. This has consequence in a lot of interesting and diverse areas like how people make political decisions.  Behavioral science is the study of biases like this one, that occur in some form for most (if not all) people.

    • #15578
      Ken Donnelly

      For the past 18 years, I have begun almost every speaking engagement by asking the audience if they think blood donation is a good thing. Virtually everyone raises their hand. Then I point to random members of the audience and ask why they think it is a good idea. People readily point out benefits of giving blood. I then ask them to raise their hand if they have donated blood in the past 6 months, past year, 2 years, and I go back to 5 years. Few hands are up.

      I then point out that only 3.5% of Canadians (or whatever the rate is in the country in which I am speaking) donate blood. Even though only about half the population is eligible to donate, but very few do.

      I then tell them that I have been asking these questions for 20 years and the result is always the same. Even though almost everyone believes donating blood is the right thing to do, and they know the reasons why it is the right thing to do, few people donate. I tell them that communications programs that only target awareness and understanding, with the expectation that a preferred behaviour will automatically follow, are lacking. If you want to nurture behaviours, you need to target behaviours using a different set of tools that mainstream marketing ones. And then I teach them the tools.

    • #19116
      Denys Trofimchuk

      My example is based on personal experience. Both myself and my parents failed to make me remember to brush my teeth before bed. When I started learning about behavioral science, I though that might help. So I tied the desired behavior (brushing teeth before bed) to the existing habit(taking shower before bed). The result – two years and counting, and my teeth are grateful:)

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