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Interview with Anna Nyvelt



Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisations, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Anna Nyvelt.


Anna co-founded Behive Consulting, a Behavioural Science consultancy located in Budapest, dedicated to bringing cutting-edge behavioural insights to organisations globally. BeHive's holistic approach to problem solving, combining academic rigour with an applied perspective and behaviourally informed design leads organisations to more predictable, competitive and human centred outcomes.


 


Who or what got you into behavioural science?

The first exposure of Behavioural Science I had was during my bachelor's year at university, in a class called Introduction to Behavioural Economics. In this class I was not only inspired by the field itself, but I met my fellow co-founder, Rachel as well. Built upon my newfound interest, I picked up Richard Thaler’s Nudge, which pulled me in completely.



What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve?

I am the proudest of creating and building BeHive, what we have reached so far as a team and the projects we have worked on. Especially the ones, where we were able to make an immediate and sustained impact on a business and see how appreciative and satisfied it made our client(s).


In the future, I would like to discover more in-depth how the decision-making processes are changing by transitioning from the physical space to the digital space; including the impact of artificial intelligence. Also, I would be happy to work on more projects related to healthcare.



 


If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing?

I would probably be an entrepreneur in a different field, working in management consulting, in the medical field or the creative industry.



How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?

The beauty of behavioural science is that even if I recognize that my decision I am about to make is influenced by certain cognitive biases, I still have the urge to choose the irrational, biased option.


However, working in Behavioural Science and seeing how human emotions, momentary mood and mental state influence our decisions, made me spend less time and mental energy on small decisions – such as which toothpaste to buy – as it will not necessarily lead to a better outcome.



 


With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make?

It is hard to highlight general skills, as it really depends on the field the behavioural scientist wants to work in. I think different skillsets are required in academia, at a tech company or at a large international non-profit organization. I have experience in the applied field, in behavioural science consulting.

It is important for all aspiring behavioural scientists to:

  1. have a basic understanding of data analysis and the ability to draw conclusions from datasets;

  2. have the mindset of thinking critically about potential experiments, use cases and implementations;

  3. possess the skill to apply the abstract knowledge of Behavioural Science in real life solutions.



How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)?

  1. Behavioural Science has always been important in the field of AI – as it can be seen in Herbert Simon’s works as well – however, with the accelerated adoption of such systems it will have even further relevancy. Currently, most of the discussions surrounding the topic are about the technological details, the possible opportunities, and the barriers of AI and there are far fewer debates on how AI will affect humans and their decision-making. I believe in the next 10 years this paradigm will shift.

  2. Based on my experience, the majority of Behavioural Science projects in the business world focuses on the customers, rather than the employees. Therefore, I believe that human challenges will be addressed not only externally, but internally as well, and many organisational issues will be resolved using behavioural insights.

  3. A further topic I want to highlight is impact-measurement. It is a general issue regarding Behavioural Science projects, that measuring impact is either circumstantial, or the opportunities and willingness toward it is low. Measuring the impact has a huge role in revealing what really works in the short, medium and long term. I believe that in the field of applied Behavioural Science it will become increasingly essential to measure the impact of interventions both in the short and long term, thus contributing to the development, innovation and ultimately more effective application of BeSci.


 


What advice would you give to young behavioural scientists or those looking to progress into the field?

Again, it depends on the field – do they want to work in academia, in the business word or for the government?


I have three (general) advices:

  1. Read diversely! Reading from different fields related to Behavioural Science and in different formats (both academic literature and news, case studies from the applied field) can be sources of inspiration and lead to better research designs, more creative processes, and more efficient solutions.

  2. Be proactive! Reach out to different people in this field, participate in Behavioural Science conferences, summer schools, meetups, book clubs. The Behavioural Science community is very supportive, open, and diverse, which makes it not only intellectually stimulating, but also fun to be a part of it.

  3. Improve your data analysis skills! This is a field where hypotheses are put to test every day, mostly in experimental, data-driven scenarios, not only in academia, but also in the applied field. Therefore, understanding research methods and developing experiments are essential, and with data being the primary source of input, it is key to know how to process it and inference real-world consequences from these findings.



Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by?

Maya Schankar, Ziba Goddard, Angela Duckworth, George Lowenstein, Gerd Gigerenzer and Botond Kőszegi.

Also, I would love to read interviews from people, who are not behavioural scientists, but indirectly connected to this field: economists, data scientists, AI professionals and neuroscientists.


 


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Anna!


As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews!


Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!

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