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 Melina Palmer! Melina is the host of The Brainy Business Podcast. She loves to bring innovative practices to organizations and help bring BE concepts from academia into application. At The Brainy Business, Melina works with companies and entrepreneurs to understand the small changes that can make a big difference in product programs, pricing, change initiatives, branding, internal communication, and marketing messages “brain friendly” to increase engagement and ROI. Let’s see how she answers these questions!
Who or what got you into behavioural science? While getting my undergrad in business administration: marketing, I remember very clearly that one of my classes had a small reference--one section of one chapter of a single book--that referenced the psychology of buying behavior. The concept fascinated me and I knew in that moment that I would eventually go back to school to get a master's in this space (instead of a traditional MBA). While working in marketing, I spent the better part of 10 years calling universities around the country asking about programs in what I was calling "business psychology" or "buying psychology" and everyone told me there was no such program. So, I put the dream on a shelf and found other learning opportunities within my field, including a 2-year innovation program for a select group of credit union professionals--kind of like a fellowship I suppose. While attending and speaking at the World Credit Union Conference for that program, one of the presentations they put together for my program was from the Center For Advanced Hindsight at Duke University. They spoke of their work, led by Dan Ariely, and I knew I had found the field I'd been searching for. After a few conversations with them about behavioral economics, I found my master's program and there was no turning back!
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve? Hands down, it would have to be creating The Brainy Business podcast, which now has nearly a quarter million downloads in over 160 countries. The show has exceeded my wildest expectations. The show has exposed so many people to the world of behavioral economics, which has always been the goal. It really walks the line of being relatable and full of science. There is nothing better than the stories I get from listeners around the world. I constantly get emails or connection requests on social media, from people who want to let me know how much they love the show and the insights--how it is transforming their life and business for the better; it's amazing! I've had many listeners reach out to ask about pursuing their own new career paths, and there are a lot of new behavioral scientists who first learned about/fell in love with the field after hearing the podcast, which is amazing. There is a lot I still want to achieve as a behavioral scientist as well! My main goal is to make it so knowledge of behavioral economics and its concepts are widespread, "bringing behavioral economics out of academia and into application" as I like to say. In that way, helping people in business know how to use and apply the concepts--either by teaching or doing my own research is high on my list of things I would like to accomplish.
If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing? The somewhat boring answer is that I would still be working in marketing and brand strategy, without the behavioral economist title. The more fun answer is that I'm a vocalist, and my original plan was to get my degree in musical theater and performing on stage. I'm still on a stage of sorts with the podcast, just a little different. :)
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life? I love looking at how behavioral concepts apply to mindset. Having the terms and understanding concepts like bikeshedding, confirmation bias, the focusing illusion...they all help to see opportunities for growth. I apply these techniques for setting and achieving goals, and have done multiple episodes (and a course) on mindset. Every episode of the podcast (and my email signature) ends with "BE thoughtful" which is a testament to how I try to live my life. Being more thoughtful and open minded, taking the time to reflect on things and being curious...behavioral science has helped bring clarity to all of these aspects for me personally, and with my family as well.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make? I think curiosity and a desire to learn something new are important in an emerging field like behavioral science. Being set in your ways will not help you or the field advance. Looking for new opportunities, new conversations, new partnerships and places to introduce research...it's a wide open world waiting for us to discover.
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)? I think the field will begin to shift into the applied space and be used in businesses much more--at least that's my goal! Business schools will begin including behavioral economics in their required curriculum and there will (hopefully) be a lot more thoughtful testing within business. I think there is also a lot of interesting opportunities with data and AI.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by? Dr. Marco Palma, head of the Texas A&M University Human Behavior Lab!
Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these amazing answers Melina. It's always good to see the science actually being applied!
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!