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TMRE Keynote: We Are Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely

Last week IIR hosted The Market Research Event (TMRE) 2015 in Orlando – one of the market research industry’s leading events that brings together the best and brightest from across the globe. This year was no exception to past TMRE’s featuring awe-inspiring keynote speakers like best-selling author Seth Godin and Jonah Berger. Additionally, the conference offered over 100+ speaker sessions cover MR topics from Behavioral Economics to Brand Innovation to Consumer Experience and featured leading brands like Kellogg, Procter & Gamble, Lululemon and Anheuser-Busch to name a few.

Heading into the third and final day of the event, notebooks were full and everyone’s gas tank was nearing empty. It has been two solid days of learning and collaborating with peers in the industry, followed by cocktail parties and dinners with friends. But still, we all showed up at 9:00 am with anticipation of the third and final keynote speaker, Dan Ariely.

For those of you unfamiliar, Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and best-selling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. Ariely is known for his research and (often amusing and unorthodox) experiments that question the forces that influence human behavior and the irrational ways in which we often behave. Ariely is no stranger to the stage. He has been featured in numerous TED talks since 2009. At TMRE the point of the presentation was simply: we are predictably irrational.

Example after example, Ariely illustrates ways in which we as humans are predictably irrational. For instance, Ariely explains how people rationalize a situation as simple as searching for a flight. You enter your departure and destination city and hit search. There are three outcomes: (1) the search results appear immediately, (2) the wheel of death spins as your frustration and annoyance grows with each turn, and (3) the website shows the process, listing quickly all the airlines it is checking with – American, United, Delta, Virgin – all the work it is doing behind and the process it is going through to get to the search results you asked for (think Kayak). What option do people feel most satisfied with? Option 3. Even more than the benefits of instant gratification offered in option 1. Why? Because as humans we are more appreciative when we see the effort and understand the process.

Ariely goes on to illustrate a number of other examples while keeping the audience engaged with humorous jokes and images of men’s urinal across the global (part of an experiment, of course). What is the application for market research industry? Ariely left us with the following takeaways to keep in mind when conducting and analyzing research:

  • We do have irrational tendencies
  • Our intuitions are often wrong
  • The environment matters (more than we think)
  • Details matter for behaviors
  • There are a lot of benefits in obsessively figuring out barriers to good behavior

Should you have a chance to see Dan Ariely speak I cannot recommend it enough. You will not be disappointed.

We hope to see you at TMRE 2016!

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