25 behavioural biases and how they influence the choices our customers make – Interview with Richard Shotton


Share on LinkedIn


Today’s interview is with Richard Shotton who is the Head of Behavioural Science at Manning Gottlieb OMD and author of the book: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy. Richard joins me today to talk about his book, a few of the behavioural biases in the book, why we should pay attention to them and how we can utilise them in our businesses.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Creating a learning environment that drives better sales and customer success outcomes – Interview with Pat Lynch of MindTickle – and is number 276 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Richard:

  • The Choice Factory is a book about behavioural biases and aims to help us understand 25 of the main ones.
  • The book is structured so that it follows a single person throughout a day and looks at all of the choices and decisions that they make and why they make them.
  • It then further explores these biases through what we can learn from the scientific literature as well as the numerous experiments that Richard has conducted.
  • The list of 25 biases are not exhaustive and Richard estimates that there are around 192 behavioural biases that have been identified so far.
  • The 25 biases, included in the book, are those that Richard thought were the most relevant for brands and commercial organizations.
  • We should be paying attention to these biases to help us better understand how people make decisions.
  • There are 3 dimensions that we should consider in decision-making: Relevance, Robustness and Range.
  • Knowledge of the biases will not necessarily provide any answers but they will provide with a set of keys that may help you unlock a range of problems.
  • Insight into some of the biases:
    • Bias 7: The Danger Of Claimed Data
      • A quote from David Ogilvy “Consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say” sums up the problems with claimed data.
      • People often exaggerate the truth and lie.
      • Sometimes, they don’t know why they do things as University of Leicester psychologist Adrian North proved when he ran an experiment in a supermarket where they played different music in the wine aisle every week i.e. one week they played German music and the next week they played French music. He monitored the effect on French and German wine sales. When French music was played 77% of the French or German wine sold was French. But, when German music was played it switched the other way round and around 73% of the wine sold was German. However, what is interesting is that when North stopped people who had bought wine and asked them why they bought the wine they did only 2% of people spontaneously mentioned the music. And, when he started probing and prompting them, 86% flat out denied that the music had any effect on them.
    • Bias 11: Expectancy Theory
      • This is all about how our enjoyment of something is not just a function of it’s physical attributes but is also about our expectations.
      • For example, Cornell’s Brian Wansink has shown that the price of a food will have an impact on how people think it tastes. Moreover, the words that we use to describe a food can have an impact on peoples perception of its taste.
      • In a simple experiment, Wansink served people brownies on napkins, paper plates and then china plates. Although they are served the same batch of brownies people rated the brownie on a paper plate lowest in terms of taste, the brownie on a paper plate a little higher and the brownie on the china plate even higher.
      • The same effect was found to be true for the amount they were prepared to pay for the brownie.
    • Bias 12: Overconfidence
      • The general idea here is that we generally think we are better than we actually are. It’s been shown again and again, for example, that 88% of drivers think they’re better than average.
      • Other studies have shown that when it comes to collecting data, acquiring more data had no positive effect on people’s ability to make accurate predictions.
      • The collection of more data could actually pull people away from focusing on what is important.
      • Whilst it may not have improved their predictive abilities, it did increase their confidence in their own ability.
      • We put too much emphasis on what’s easy to measure and too little emphasis on what’s hard to measure and that can lead to an overtly short-term focus.
    • Bias 18: The Pratfall Effect
      • It’s got the word ‘prat’ in it. What’s not to like.
      • This comes from Elliot Aronson, Professor of psychology at Harvard, who found that that people (and brands) that admit or exhibit a flaw tend to be more appealing.
      • Aronson’s classic experiment involved recruiting a friend to take part in a quiz. However, he gives the friend the answers too the quiz and the friend gets 90% of the answers right and wins by miles. But then, as he is standing up at the end of the quiz he makes a ‘pratfall’, a small blunder. In this case, he spills a cup of coffee down himself. This is all recorded.
      • Aronson then takes the recording and he plays two versions to people. They either see the entire performance including the pratfall or they just see the quiz performance.
      • Aronson found that people said that the contestant who made a mistake was significantly more appealing than the perfect performance.
      • The implication being that the closer that we get to perfection the less believable we can become.
  • Richard tweets about the latest social psychology findings @rshotton and don’t forget to grab a copy of his book here.

About Richard

Richard ShottonRichard Shotton is the Head of Behavioural Science at Manning Gottlieb OMD as well as the author of The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy, a best-selling book on how to apply findings from behavioural science to advertising.

Richard started his career as a media planner 18 years ago, working on accounts such as Coke, Lexus, and comparethemarket, before specialising in applying behavioural science to business problems. He is currently the Head of Behavioural Science at Manning Gottlieb OMD, the most awarded media agency in the history of the IPA Effectiveness awards.

He regularly runs training session with brands, big and small, using insights from behavioural science to help solve their problems.

You can find out more about Richard at his site, he also tweets about the latest social psychology findings @rshotton, do connect with him on LinkedIn here and don’t forget to grab a copy of his book here.



Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here