Behaviorism And Its Momentum

Happy Sunday everyone!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to work on a fleshed out post this week, but I have an interesting one in the pipeline (hint: it involves the branding behind Drake and the human amygdala).

In the meantime, I figured I’d take a look at the momentum of a passion topic of mine: behavioral economics.

I’ve written a bit about behavioral economics on my blog, but I thought it’d be interesting to take a step back and look at interest for the topic at hand.

Interestingly enough, the queries for the term “Behaviorism” look to be cyclical when looking at the trend line on a global scale, with most of the queries coming from the African continent. The peaks happen from February to May and September to December, while the dips occur in late July and late December. The peak in the trend line for “Behavioral Economics” occurred around the time that the Noble Prize was awarded to Richard Thaler for his work on the topic. I wonder if the increase in terms have to do with psychology students in school that have to look up the term.

When looking at the trend lines focusing on USA, we see a similar seasonal trend for the term “Behaviorism”, with the peaks occurring in late August/early September and the dips around mid-December. Being that the school year usually starts around late August/early September, Being that some of the top related queries for the term “Behaviorism” are related to pet behaviorists in the vicinity, could it be that most people are looking up for a pet behaviorist around this time? Or is the start of the school year (which coincidentally happens around late August/early September) have to do with the peaks we’re seeing? Last theory: could it be that investors are conducting research on behaviorism leading up to the dreaded month of October? Some food for thought until next time… Would love to hear any thoughts on the subject though!


It's quite fascinating to reflect on how irrational people can be.

And it's perfectly normal to be irrational. We can't be completely rational all the time right? 

This irrationality is part of our bounded rationality. According to Herbert Simon, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1975, people have cognitive limitations and because of that, we go about making sub-optimal decisions in our everyday lives. Through this lens, people unconsciously act as "satisficers" in their decision-making, seeking to make a satisfactory decision instead than an optimal one. In order to facilitate the decision-making process, we act on instincts, habits, heuristics, cognitive illusions, and biases - leading us to "satisficing" decisions.

This is innate within all people. During this unconscious part of the decision-making process, we formulate stories - stories that support our beliefs.

Thomas Gilovich, Author and Professor of Psychology at Cornell University who has contributed to the behavioral economics field, describes these stories as a result of "Patternicity", the tendency to create meaning from events. While this evolved trait (think hunter-gatherers hearing rustling in the grass and believing it might be a predator) greatly served our ancestors, "patternicity" leads to irrationality, poor decision-making & bias.

While the topic of ethics relating to behavioral economics makes for another blog post, marketers have been using the underlying biases in "satisficers" to create effective marketing campaigns advantages for decades. From loss aversion to anchoring, there are plenty of biases for marketers to utilize. With that being said, potential consumers can offset this targeting by being "intuitive scientists" - a nice little secret from Thomas in the video above.

Image Credit:  Behavioral Scientist

Image Credit: Behavioral Scientist