Qual agency

Client: Undeclared
Output: Presentations, face-to-face workshop participation, written docs
Research: Oliver Payne, Founder | Nathalie Spencer, Associate, Behavioural Economist | Saoirse Connor Desai, Associate, Cognitive Psychologist


How do you give a behavioural interpretation of qualitative research?


Qualitative research is necessarily interpretive, and that interpretation itself can benefit from a behavioural view. And great qualitative agencies have an approach that segues nicely with behavioural interpretation, along with evolutionary psychology, ethnography, and others.


• One reading was for behaviour in airports. There’s no extensive library of impulse purchasing behaviour in airports so an interpretation was needed – around what was already very extensive field research, films, and qualitative interpretations.

Oliver and Nathalie worked out a pretty robust and serviceable approach in a few hours using their understanding of how habits work (a form of behavioural lock-in), and their understanding of how our reasoned deliberative thinking defers decisions to the impulsive/automatic/relexive when cognitive load is high, such as when in an unfamiliar place. Broadly speaking we all know an airport schematic (check-in, security, purchase, plane) but are unfamiliar with specifics. A good corollary is the diference between making a cup of tea in your own home versus making a cup of tea in an unfamiliar home; ‘automatic/reflexive’ thinking handles tea-making at home, the deliberative, and draining reflective thinking handles tea-making in an unfamiliar home. Your ability to process other information is reduced when cognitive load is high.

The headline take-out being, we’re usefully considered to be lost and impulsive in an airport.





These two broad approaches gave a good foundation for commenting on likely behaviour, and can be (and were) extended to the entire consumer journey from front-door to runway.

• In a reading of behaviour in perishable retail, there’s some very good research on judgement and decision-making (Plous for more), as well as choice overload (Iyengar, particularly). Saoirse and Oliver put together a literature review. And certainly two of the three legs of social psychology – situation/context, and construal (proximal/vivid) – suggests ways of presenting raw ingredients as clearly separated and packaged with the entire ingredients for a single dish combats the easy cognitive load of ready meals and packaged ingredients.

• FMCG bathroom products for an international audience are a challenge. Along with evolutionary psychology, and ad agency, client, and research agency a workshop generate great ideas. A behavioural reading of two country’s qual research was written, the consistent themes agreed together, and a twenty min or so presentation about the basic of decision-making and specific behavioural readings presented with read-across examples.

• Energy companies are challenged with delivering home improvements that reduce energy consumption in both the paid-for and free-to-customer market. It is a nationwide challenge. There’s plenty of research around this and it draws a direct line from Oliver’s research and book on environmental psychology, behavioural economics – ‘Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour’. Outputs include readings, proposed interventions, and structures for the company and lobbyists.