Behavioral Economics – Is it the Answer?
That depends on the question! This topic is “hot” in healthcare and wellness research right now and we applaud that. It’s a powerful and valuable tool. However, when used in isolation it has the power to mislead as well as to inform.
There is a common misunderstanding that behavioral economics are a function of the “subconscious mind”. This is wrong on two counts.
The first is that neither psychology nor neuroscience acknowledge the concept of a subconscious mind as a distinct entity identifiable by function or in brain geography. We have only the conscious mind based on the cerebral cortex and the unconscious mind based on the cerebellum.
Secondly, while these decision algorithms run reflexively (rather than subconsciously) they are a part of the conscious mind. We can access, override and even permanently change these reflexive rules.
More significantly, basing market research on behavioral economics ignores the unconscious mind altogether. Personality, affectives, limbics, worldview and memory recall hierarchy all play a major role, and the more serious the decision the more likely they will be involved. These are parts of us that cannot readily be changed.
Therefore, we give three qualified cheers for behavioral economics while recognizing that they are a step on the road to greater insight, not a complete solution by themselves. Treating BH as such will lead to misleading results and could set back the cause of neuromarketing.
For a copy of our White Pater Behavioral Economics: Strengths and Limitations