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Interview with Joris Fonteijn

Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisation, 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 Joris Fonteijn. Joris is Chief Behavioral Officer at Crobox. He specializes in behavioral change, his knowledge and skills focusing on developing effective communication signs for changing behavior, to advertising, change management and consultancy. He is passionate about visual communications and technology that support our daily lives, making life just a little bit easier. Take it away Joris!


Who or what got you into behavioural science? As a child I've been raised with parental guidelines like: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. This (most likely) paved the way for me developing introspective and empathetic skills. Resulting in an innate drive in trying to understand why I did what I did (but also understand why others might've done what they've done). Fast forward, I ended up deciding to follow my father's footsteps and study Psychology. Although he ended up becoming a Clinical Psychologist and I was more interested in understanding group behavior (Social Psychology). It's the simple but elegant experiments that peak my interest, like: if 5 people are looking up to the sky, others around them are more likely to look up as well (because something interesting needs to be seen there, right?!).

Looking back I can now see that specific choices set the base for being where I am professionally. Choosing to study Psychology, following a course called 'Social Influence' (by Anthony Pratkanis at UCSC) deciding to choose cognitive master 'Health and Social Psychology' (instead of 'Neuropsychology' also at Maastricht University). Working for three years as a behavior change consultant, working for one year as a strategist for an ad agency, one year as a persuasion analyst at a web design company and now working for Crobox as Chief Behavioral Officer (where we combine consumer behavior and machine learning algorithms to 'discover the why behind the buy'). Clearly the red thread is behavior change.

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a Behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve? I once created a full program for our clients called the 'Journey of Influence', which basically lays out all steps to be taken for setting up campaigns for online retailers to drive micro-behaviors and deliver customer insights throughout the customer journey. But as you know, all is flux. We recently shifted our focus from customer centric to product centric, making this program less needed but making our product offering even more relevant, more future proof. At Crobox I wish to help create a self-service platform where online retailers can learn the main drivers of interest for any product they have on their platform. I want clients not only to be able to find the most relevant messages for any product, but also be able to identify the most relevant products (so they can focus their attention on those products that matter most and need attention, albeit to learn from it or to improve it). Next step, not sure yet. Maybe assist in some way to boost sustainable behavior and help diminish effects of climate change. If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing? Most likely would have become a doctor, gym teacher (ah, love for sports...) or neuropsychologist (although bridging to my current line of work is also possible as a neuropsychologist). So maybe destiny? ;) How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life? I'm a strong believer of routines and the ability to add (or remove) habits to the mix. My morning routine on weekdays is very predictable: morning gratitude journaling (for spotting/experiencing more happiness in life), meditation (for becoming more mindful, and increasing the ability to choose to act upon thoughts/feelings), go to the gym (healthy body), podcasts/blinkist book summaries (inspiration), coffee (kickstart the day). With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make? Empathy, introspection and dissection. Ability to place yourself in someone else's shoes and try to understand why someone wants to or won't perform a specific type of behavior. But what really has been a game changer for me, was the ability to design (using Sketch, Figma, or even Photoshop). Allowing me not only to think why a specific strategy might work (reasoning and messaging based on scientific literature), but also visualize it in such a way that it can be used as intervention. It made me less dependent on others, and helped me translate ideas straight into interventions (doubling my skill set value). How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)? Both from a governmental and business perspective I believe the position for behavioral scientists will become stronger. Almost in every industry in one way or another, we're dealing with people and people's behavior (be it in HR, change management or the behavior of consumers or clients). To change behavior, you need to understand behavior and for that I believe behavioral science is the perfect candidate to help out. Just listening to the amount of times behavior change has been mentioned in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For effectively suppressing a pandemic and for regulations to have an impact, people need to (be able and motivated) to change their behavior. And for businesses, since they will increasingly rely on big data to make (business) decisions, we need people to help them interpret it. I believe machines can assist us in doing a lot of the legwork in crunching the numbers, but we need humans to help understand humans (at least for now). Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by? Anthony Pratkanis (professor of Psychology at University of California, Santa Cruz), author 'The Science of Social Influence: Advances and Future Progress' (highly recommended overview of drivers a our behavior).


Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these amazing answers Joris!

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!


Behavioural Science

Personal Finance



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