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 Patrick Oberstadt. Patrick is a consumer psychologist who works at Crobox, where he stimulates and analyses online behaviour with the help of Machine Learning. Don't let the title mislead you, he is most definitely a behavioural scientist, just one with a high interest in digital behavior, blockchain technology, conversion and micro conversion. Patrick specializes in understanding what motivates (online) shoppers and how to trigger them. Combining his Consumer Psychology knowledge with his (UX/Experience) Design skills he hopes to improve the consumer journey and learn from it at the same time. Take it away Patrick!
Who or what got you into behavioural science?
Wanting to understand others, on different levels. I wanted to understand why people behaved the way they did. That's what has gotten me interested in psychology in the first place. As soon as I found more examples and cases on behavioural science, consumer behavior and nudging I was sold. Learning more about the biases I have and the biases everyone else has, made it very relatable and fun to learn more about. There is not a moment I can pinpoint that got me into it, but maybe the first people that got me into this field were Rory Sutherland and Robert Cialdini.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a Behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve?
I think the proudest moments I had as a behavioural scientist are the ones where I am recognized as such haha! I haven't had big scientific research breakthroughs, but I have had some wide recognition for some things I wrote. So the prime example would be where I dissected the rise (and fall) of cryptocurrency in the mind of (potential) investors. I looked into the psychological reasons why people were so drawn to cryptocurrency all of a sudden. So I brought two very niche topics together and it was so well received it gave me the opportunity to tell about it in Dutch national tv outlets and newspapers.
If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing?
I would probably be doing something creative. I've designed greeting cards, websites, clothing, a lot of things really. I think I would have the most fun by creating things. But I don't know if that would be my bread and butter, because that could take the fun out of it. I think I'd return to where my career started and that is either advertising or something like ecommerce conversion specialist. Now that I think of it, these things still really use behavioural science as well, so I guess I wouldn't be doing very different!
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?
I take B.J. Foggs behaviour model as an inspiration to change things in my own life. Make the bad things harder to do, so for example I'm not buying unhealthy snacks or drinks anymore. I try to apply it to myself by making things harder or easier for me. I know I will only go to the gym if I can access it easily so I will make sure I go to the one closest to my home. I also try to expose my biases to make sure I make better decisions or at least, try to be less biased when making them. Basically I'm nudging myself and sometimes maybe the people around me, which is even more fun.
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 it's a big plus if you're really curious about human behaviour. But also knowing the fact that humans are not as predictable and clearcut as we sometimes make them seem to be. Besides this I think being flexible and being reflective is important, because your view on reality can be turned upside down by certain theories, but it could also be that a certain theory that has been your go-to for a certain problem apparently couldn't be reproduced or was not researched properly. Adapting your worldview or your view on certain behavior will be key to deal with this and therefore I think you will need to be reflective and flexible.
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)?
I may be biased on this. But I think that more and more research will be done in the field of ecommerce. Especially during this pandemic we have seen a rise in importance and relevance of online behavior and online shops. Also the research in ecommerce has a vast potential ready to be "disrupted" and be made something that reflects real life online consumer behaviour even better, with bigger datasets. Right now I feel that it's still very much labwork, just a few respondents with the task to do something they weren't actually about to do right now. I think it would be interesting to see a shift to research diving into actual online behavior from big websites with a lot of data.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by?
Rory Sutherland - Adman, with a lot of experience in behavioural science. He has a unique way of looking at things that are really interesting in the field of behavioural science
Brian Jeffrey (B.J.) Fogg - Came up with his own behavioural model which to me is so simple yet so robust I think it's really important to understand and use in daily life.
Koen Smets (AKA Koenfucius) - A self made behavioural scientist that keeps bringing out quality content and keeping a close eye on developments in this field as well
Steve-Stewart Williams - An evolutionary psychologist that also shares a lot of content similar to Koenfucius, with hints of evolutionary psychology, social psychology, consumer psychology. Just very interesting to follow.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these amazing answers Patrick! Interviews with Rory and Koen have already been publishes on this blog, just check them out in the interview tab!
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!