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What Do You Want from Behavioural Science?

Ambitions, ambitions, ambitions. Even if you rolled into behavioural science for “the fun of it” you’re going to want to get something out of being in this field. So what do our Next Gen’ers wants from being in behavioural science? Also make sure to read the previous next gen articles! Article 1 introduces the Next Gen, article 2 finds out why they went into behavioural science, article 3 finds out HOW they got into behavioural science and then article 4 shows how they actually apply behavioural science. Quite different perspectives!


Flora Finamor Pfeifer “I want to be able to answer big questions about the human behavior and apply this knowledge in public and social policies. I would like to lead a behavioral public policy initiative in Brazil, that focuses on my society priorities and is able to have a large-scale impact. I also think the area has some methodological issues that need to be improved, and I want to be part of it. For doing this I’m leaning towards mixing academia with governments/ third sector. I would want to actively research about the methodological aspects of behavioral public policy, expanding my view with philosophical and law perspectives. I am interest in identifying its main challenges and how we can work towards more efficient applications and arriving in general conclusions.”


Rebecca Amo “I look forward to implementing applied behavioural science in both my professional work as well as my personal life. Understanding human behaviour, their motivations, the “real why” behind decisions or motivations makes it easier to find solutions, impact life and create meaningful living. One day, I am gonna run my own firm. Champion opportunities for inclusive research and behavioural science application in Africa that tell untold findings from an African context. Context matters in behavioural science!

For doing this, I am leaning towards being the bridge between academia and industry.

A topic I have a specific interest in is why Behavioural Science just like the rest of the research world is so WEIRD! There needs to be a deliberate awareness to the rest on non-WEIRED population. Winning individuals by speaking openly that BeSci is WEIRD and it is time to get others on board. Thanks to #Nudgestock2020 for spearheading the conversations and a great honor to Neela Saldana, Grace Lordan and Cerita D. Bethea. (It would be great to interview Cerita D. Bethea for the experienced edition)”


Robert Haisfield “All I hope to gain for myself is a deep understanding of why people do what they do. I hope my work will enable others to close the intention-behavior gap and behave prosocially. Behavioral science and interdisciplinary approaches are my tools of choice for these goals.

I believe that entrepreneurship provides the unique opportunity to test behavioral science ideas in the messy world in a wide variety of practical contexts. In this way, entrepreneurs can support behavioral science by learning which ideas are robust in “the wild,” which ideas have clear value, ultimately which ideas deserve to be scaled. Consulting means that I’m not just learning from one company at a time - insight can come from learning across a portfolio of problems, contexts, populations, and interventions. Portfolio effects are also why I want my own startup studio at some point in the future. Launching one startup at a time is too slow, and my strengths are primarily in research, thinking, and shaping stages. Startup studios launch portfolios of products and learn across all of them how to make better products. I want to be a professor someday, but not until after I’ve already been in industry for decades. In industry, I hope to make a direct impact and learn from practice. I’ve learned more from practice than I’ve learned from any class I’ve taken or any paper I’ve read. I’m worried that in academia I would end up so entrenched in theory that my mental models of why people do what they do would be disconnected from reality. For the first three months of my consulting practice, I mainly just read and wrote. Working on client projects forces me to analyze a problem intently and think critically about which ideas are relevant to the situation and likely to succeed. Practice is where tacit knowledge of complex realities is gained. Although my academic learning has and continues to valuably impact the way that I practice, I still have much to learn from application and feedback loops.

The professors I loved most in college were the ones who had real world experience, and I want to be that person for others. I love to teach, but my educational content will be delivered through client interactions, writings, presentations, and trainings for the time being.

As a specific topic, emotion seems like it’s worth diving into. Many theories and findings use it as an explanatory mechanism, but I haven’t delved in too deeply yet. I’m also curious about the behaviors of online communities and there’s a whole literature on that in and out of academia that I think will be illuminating. I also want to expand my understanding of the topics I already study, because there’s so much still to learn.”


Sarah Bowen I just want to continue to do work that interests and motivates me. I want to be the Hannah Montana of behavioral science and have the best of both worlds. Hybrid all the way. And I don’t just want to pick one topic of interest!”


Gabriella Stuart Since I began my bachelor’s studies my ambition has always been to contribute to building a better world. My ambition for doing this is to be able to understand and explain why people sometimes engage in suboptimal behaviours, and being able to develop interventions that address behavioural problems that generate positive outcomes. After having studied behavioural science for 5+ years, I am motivated to continue applying my knowledge in “the real world” and to gain more experience working with a wide range of behavioural issues, target groups and clients, why I see myself working within the industry for the next years. But I am definitely interested in pursuing a PhD, but not in the very nearest future. Today I would definitely say I want to end up working with behavioural public policy.”


Garrett Meccariello “I don’t see myself as a career behavioral scientist, rather as someone who leads teams focusing on innovation and product design using behavioral science. I want to transfer the application of the scientific method and analytical skills that I've developed onwards to my next adventure. That won’t be for some time though, I love behavioral science and experimentation. For this purpose I’m staying in industry. I love having the ability to theorize, test, and analyze interventions in a week’s time or less. This opportunity isn’t available in academia (yet). In industry I'm exposed to new problems everyday whereas it feels like academics focus on one problem for most of their career. For the future, I’m very happy in the insurance realm and in the larger financial services industry, but would love to volunteer time on healthy food consumption or habit building projects down the line. Outside of my professional scope of practice, I’m also interested in nudging healthier financial behavior.”


Kathryn Ambroze “I hope that my contributions to the field will facilitate meaningful discussions about human decision-making, habit formation and emotional measurements. I find it rewarding to educate students, companies and really anyone interested about Applied Consumer Neuroscience. Hopefully working in this space helps companies follow a consumer-centric approach to developing products or communications. I aspire to enhance my career and the industry at large by absorbing ideas from different disciplines to create viable solutions.

With regards to being in academia or in industry, I don’t think you have to choose one. My role at HCD Research involves giving lectures to college or graduate students about the subfield of consumer research in behavioral science. Additionally, research collaborations of academia and industry are not uncommon. I hope to walk that fine line and bridge the gap between the two worlds.

If I have to choose one topic, it would probably be the exploration of habit formation. Habits are very complicated and include a lot of information about other areas I am interested in such as memory, context and norms. I am lucky to say my passions align well with my current position.”


Peter Judodihardjo “I hope one day to be a practitioner of behavioural insights on a large scale. I would love to have the opportunity to apply all this theoretical knowledge to practical problems. I love doing this theoretically as a pastime. Identifying deficits in human decision making that I observe in day to day life, and then coming up with theoretical solutions to them. I wish to be paid for this one day! I think currently my energy is towards industry. Though I have lots of things I would like to investigate, the drear of writing papers has put me off academia, at least for now. I think it is an exciting time to be working in industry too. This discipline has now become so popular that more and more companies are looking for behavioural science solutions to their problems. So, the variety and number of projects seems vast and ever increasing. I think the beauty of behavioural science is that it is very cross disciplinary. Something I discussed with Rory Sutherland was how, in behavioural science, a lab study investigating a narrow number of variables, can be applied to a remarkably wide variety of contexts. Hence, someone working in one sub-field can quickly transition to another, as many of the principles used in one can also be applied to another. This is one of the most unique and appealing aspects of behavioural science, I think.”


Natasha Oza “I want to work at the intersection of behavioural science, technology, and education to change how people learn, across contexts. I am most interested in understanding how elements of the external environment (physical and digital) influence motivation and learning - particularly at the workplace.

Today, we’re constantly being bombarded with new information - things we are expected to know to stay relevant. “Learning” has gone from something that was a focused activity in the initial few years of life (education) to a constant state of mind, required to keep pace with the rapid generation of information. Having experienced the power of creating effective learning environments, I want to make such environments the norm - in formal educational institutions to professional organisations and public spaces, and I believe technology will play a huge role in this. I envision breaking the traditional silos of knowledge and exploring how effective learning can be promoted across contexts. I’m eager to further explore how experiences can be curated to promote growth and learning - across all other fields (healthcare, finance, organisational growth, etc)

I’m leaning towards a career in the industry but I am very open to seeing where my journey leads!”


Sofia Mardiaga “On a personal level, I want to satisfy my own curiosity about human behaviour. Why are we irrational? (Is it even irrationality exactly?) What drives our motivation? What patterns underlie our decision? And then how can we use this to help face some of society's challenges? Those are the kinds of questions that motivate me to study more about the field and engage in research. On a professional side I hope to implement this within business to help startups and larger companies to design better products and interfaces with users. I also want to focus a great part of my future research projects on Latin America. I feel the region is still widely unexplored from a behavioural science perspective and much can be done to adapt public policy, charities, and how institutions work to help the population. Frequently in our region (and pretty much elsewhere), governments don’t take psychology (and scientific research as a whole) into account enough when designing programmes and policies. A little behavioural science could then go a long way to help improve people’s lives by helping to structure functional institutions and initiatives.

I’m awkwardly between academia and industry. I envision myself as both a scientist and a businesswoman. I don’t see myself applying this knowledge to one or the other. My passion for business and science will ultimately drive me to be in both somehow, whether through private consulting or applying it in my daily job. I have always admired polymaths in history and I feel that limiting oneself to a single field or area is an injustice to our potential to explore ideas and to do good for the world.”


This is what you get with behavioural science: a bunch of endless optimists and idealists! And why shouldn’t they be? Behavioural science is a young field, and as they all mention, there is still a lot of ground to cover 😊 In the next article we are going to talk about skills! Which skills do the Next Gen’ers think you need to be a good behavioural scientist? And which skill(s) has helped them the most? Stay tuned to find out! As mentioned before, make sure to read the previous next gen articles! Article 1 introduces the Next Gen, article 2 finds out why they went into behavioural science, article 3 finds out HOW they got into behavioural science and then article 4 shows how they actually apply behavioural science. Quite different perspectives!

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