How we work

Some clients take the full sequence, some take parts to slot into their existing work-streams


the person…

We test the strength of personal disposition on behaviour.

It’s important that we find out what people can’t normally articulate or crystallise about their assumptions and deep-seated attitudes, and we understand their mental models of the world around them.

Semi-structured group interviews with chartered psychologists are very useful ways to decode verbal and non-verbal behaviour; reporting (to ourselves, client) simply what people say is a waste of time (often times). E.g. in studies of persuasiveness, Cialdini found:

“The injunctive [or, behaviour commonly unapproved] affected people’s conscious assessments of the ads’ persuasiveness. The descriptive [or, behaviour commonly performed] ‘influenced intentions directly’” – we often make coherent decisions based on arbitrary or mistaken assessments Read more here.

Indeed, we don’t care about our own opinions at The Hunting Dynasty, and we care little for others’ opinions too – what we care for are the revealed states, the fluid speaking of a ‘comfortable’ thought, the clenched hands of struggle, the miming and mimicking that adds grammar and meaning to simple words. Only in this way can we dig deep into people’s experience of the word around them.

Implicit attitude tests (EMOTIX©, CELEBRAND)
Implicit attitude tests (especially EMOTIX© designed by InnovationBubble) is a method to understand the deep-seated responses to stimulus by connecting words and images together, ignoring the slower, ‘thinking’ answers and focussing on reflexive quicker responses.

CELEBRAND is a robust reading of consumers’ gut response to celebrities’ brand sponsorship deals and how they add (or not) to the brand value of both parties using implicit attitude tests. This is a discrete service, tested on a defined audience.

It is suitable for celebrities themselves, their agents and representatives, brand managers, PR, marketing, and advertising client-side and agency-side representatives.

Journey mapping
Journey mapping is a useful to examine the processes and practices of human subjects in a system or process. It helps to identify moments of pain, delight, confusion, and assumptions – many of which can be simply ‘interface’ problems (whether real- or virtual-world).

The benefit of a psychological approach to this structure is an understating of both why the interface/presentation layer/architecture is causing problems for the participant and likely ways in can be combated.


They could be intercept interviews or at-leasure and un-guided; we write them understanding how sequencing affects outcomes, in ways that aren’t always text-based, and use existing question-norms.

For instance, in Strack, Martin, and Schwartz study on query theory conducted it in 1988, they asked only two questions. These were unrelated, and asked in the only two possible sequences and they recorded different results depending on the order in which they asked the questions.

If asked to rate ‘happiness with life-as-a-whole’ before ‘happiness with dating’, there was no real link. You could be happy or sad, dating or not, and it wouldn’t relate in any meaningful way.

But if the order was flipped and respondents were asked to rate ‘happiness with dating’ before ‘happiness with life-as-a-whole’ the link between the two was almost 3.5 times greater: being in a relationship made you more likely to be happy. The order is the outcome. Sequence is important [for examples of order theory read this passage ‘Specifically happy, generally’ in Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour].

Also, we use psychologically useful question-sets such as Personal Norms questions, which means we can do a mini ‘psych study’ rather than simply gather facts or opinions.

…and more


…the situation

We test the strength of the situation in guiding behaviour.

Whether real or virtual, the way the world interfaces with us frequently affects our behaviour. Understanding the strength of this effect is important.


The real-world environment affects our behaviour in ways we infrequently notice or expect. Observing behaviour before and after changing an environment can reveal valuable understating about its influence.

e.g. We’ve experimented with litter bin affordance and seen a 10% drop in littering over the population [For more see Keep Britain Tidy].

Real-world manipulation-and-observation can also be in-store, employee engagement (energy use, waste), and many more.

Darley & Batson’s 1973 paper on the Good Samaritan and time-pressure is a great example [overview], [paper]) where between 63% and 10% of theology students on their way to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan stopped to help an ill ‘stooge’.

Virtual world
With virtual presentation – such as a digital interface – is often easy to design and test changes and get primary data through an A/B test route. For many, this can mean being overwhelmed by data.

We design both a psychologically robust methodology and know how to interpret the results in a way that’s meaningful; There’s little point in knowing one version works better than another without knowing why (what do you do next, for instance?)

Messaging (paid-for media, signage, etc)
A direct lead-in to communication work (see ‘Communicating overtly (marketing, digital, etc)’ section below) and often requires a double-whammy of reflective and reflexive thinking – the audience respond to it instinctively and ‘thinkingly’. Testing and observing responses – either in real-time behaviour or outcomes associated with – is where the work is done.

And similar to ‘Virtual world’ section above, we design both a psychologically robust methodology and know how to interpret the results in a way that’s meaningful.

Literature reviews
We do a lot of literature reviews. It’s important to review peer-reviewed experiments covering the clients’ challenge – especially since 1879 in Leipzig we’ve amassed a large set of knowledge from which to work, tweak and test.

Strictly speaking they’re not solely a ‘situational’ exercise but vital nonetheless. Indeed, every project has one whether client is aware or not.

We may well have some reviews similar to work of which a prospective client is thinking, including:
– online choice architecture
– online gift sites
– in-store product display
– electric car sales
– cycling to work
– multimode travelling
– littering
– B2B procurement/sales
– travel disruption
– loft insulation
– Green Deal
– shower gel/soap
– face-to-face finance sales
– and more.
[ call or email if any of these are in your area or you’d like to find out more]

…and more


Communication & execution

Once we’ve worked out the balance of influence between ‘the person’ and ‘the situation’ we work with clients to design & execute interventions, whether they’re messages or architectural/virtual interventions.

Some clients prefer to use their established relationships for this part, but our experience on the marketing agency side and work deploying comms for Hunting Dynasty clients means we’re more than a research unit.

Designing & deploying interventions
It is generally accepted that ‘nudging’ supports behaviour aligned with reflected preferences, and that business or community messaging likely tries to create new behaviour irrespective of preferences; these two broad approaches are often mixed-up.

Also, intervention design-and-deployment may need to service the client in terms of cost, speed, ease, scalability, or other factors; Knowing how behaviour is affected means we can work out the best way to achieve the result our client needs and make it ‘boardroom ready’ with coherent data unpinning the work. Clients are not delivered indefensible ‘lay hunches and gut feel’ with us. [e.g. ‘you can’t really answer a spreadsheet with a mood-board‘ in Campaign]

Strategy for communication

Our backgrounds in advertising mixed with our backgrounds in psychology mean we can write coherent strategies that can actually be delivered – many psych/research agencies don’t have that bridge over to execution, and many marketing/comms/planning agencies don’t have the psych foundation from which to build.

e.g. Our comms strategy for Waterwise included a discussion of how messages for resource-use differ from those of consumer goods, a discussion of the psychology of message construction, a plan for collaboration, and how it works across a wide range of media.

Communicating overtly (marketing, digital, etc)

Overt communication – such as an advert, or a sign – carries an expectation that one is being spoken to; understanding both this context and how to construct the message contained within is vital to make sure the outcome is as intended. Many are familiar with restaurant menu for example where the cheapest wine is rarely purchased. [For info on food specifically read ‘Can a change in portion size transform our bad food habits?’ Guardian article, for examples of errors read this passage about a TV ad and norms in Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour].

A message, or other synthetic presentation of information, is often easier to test-and-change than covert architectural comms (below). And, if no primary research can be done, our good understanding of psychology helps us write messages that work from the get-go.

e.g. Emails that work [See Soltis as an example], potent call scripts [See NPower as an example], etc.

Communicating covertly (architecture, organisation, etc)
We’re not advocating constructing a building, but often the world around us ‘talks’ to us. Expectations and common behaviour are in evidence in many places (a worn footpath on grass, litter on a stair rail, etc). Both habit formation and breaking are best achieved linking to or removing from an associated environment [read our post about the science of habit formation here]. There are many other aspects to guided behaviour, the most significant of which is there’s no ‘neutral’ position, and the recognition of behaviour being changed is often zero. If our research shows us this a way to effortlessly change behaviour, we make that happen.

Part of our solution for PleaseCycle/Stravel (now ‘Yomp’) included cycle racks in prominent positions to normalise cycling as ‘behaviour commonly performed (by people like you)’. For more on employee engagement and resource use read this post.

Workshops (overt and covert comms)
Workshops (almost exclusively) need to take the audience from 0-60mph quickly, and so focus on teasing out practical ways of communicating both overtly with messaging and covertly with architecture, and focussing on ‘the situation’ aspects more than ‘the person’ as the situation leans on ubiquitous and persistent deep-seated behaviours that many of us share.

We have workshops getting audience to make disposal coffee cups less likely to be purchased in a coffee shop, and a structured process that generates face-to-face scripts and material for persuasive sales.

…and more