Interview with Kelly Goldsmith

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 Kelly Goldsmith. Kelly is a behavioural scientist whose research examines consumers’ psychological and behavioural responses to scarcity and uncertainty. Her research is highly interdisciplinary, drawing upon theories and methods from a variety of areas, including anthropology, cognitive and social psychology, economics, evolutionary biology and marketing. Because her research bridges theory and practice, it contributes not only to more nuanced theories of consumer decision making, but also to new techniques for marketers, firms and policy makers. She is a full professor and award-winning teacher at Vanderbilt University, and recently co-edited three special issues for top marketing journals on the topics of “Consumer Psychology for the Greater Good”, “Resource Scarcity and Consumer Decision Making” and “Consumer Insights from the COVID-19 Outbreak”. She obtained her PhD in Behavioral Marketing from Yale University, and her undergraduate degree from Duke University.

Who or what got you into behavioural science?

My interest in behavioral science was multi-determined. My mom has her PhD in Psychology and my dad has his PhD in Organizational Behavior, so in many ways this apple did not roll far from the tree. Truthfully, I think being raised by adults who were endlessly fascinated by why people did what they did just trained me to try to unpack those questions from a young age. I feel very fortunate that I was able to end up in a job where I now get paid to do it!

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

I am just proud that I was able to make it out of my PhD program and get a job! In many ways, I was a fish out of water when I started my graduate studies. I worked hard, but I also had the benefit of lots of very patient faculty who were willing to help me develop professionally. As for what I still want to achieve, only about a million things. In many ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.

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

If I wasn’t a behavioral scientist, what I would want to be doing is editing documentaries. I’m not saying I’d be any good at it, but I’m saying that I’d like it!

How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?

I probably do not apply it enough! When I was working on my dissertation, I definitely applied everything I was learning from the goals literature to my personal life. I’d never been so in shape or so fiscally responsible! I wonder where I put all my notes from then…

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

For anyone who wants to get a PhD, I think one of the most important skills is tenacity. It’s a long hard battle, but it’s worth it. As for recommendations, I would strongly encourage adopting a practice of constant learning. Life is short, and we are all fortunate to live at a time when more information is available to us (for free!) than ever before. You will never have enough time on this planet to learn all the cool stuff there is to learn, so dive in!

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

This is a really difficult question to answer in the wake of the pandemic – when so many things changed for so many industries. I do hope that as we move forward as a discipline we will push ourselves to find new ways to make the field more accessible to people from different backgrounds.

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

I could write about 40 names here. My number one would be Ryan Hamilton!

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

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!