Practice informing research informing practice at ACR 2014

Oct 31

With over 1000 presentations, more than 300 posters, and 1200 attendees, it was impossible to capture everything at the 2014 Association for Consumer Research North American Conference. For every talk I attended (e.g.,Choice Architecture; Aging Consumers: Beyond Chronological Age;  Interplay Effect of Goals and Planning on Consumer Welfare), there were several concurrent ones that I sadly had to forego (e.g., Consumer Perceptions of Fairness and Greed; Community and Celebrity; Gamification of Digital Services). Overall, it was interesting to see how different researchers drew inspiration from existing campaigns:

  • Silvia Bellezza (Harvard Business School) cited Virgin Mobile’s “Happy Accidents” commercial — in which cell phone users desperate to upgrade to new devices destroy their current ones — in her talk, “‘Be Careless with That!’ Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior toward Possessions.”
  •  The Choose Health LA initiative of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health appeared in Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon’s (INSEAD) presentation about how sensory imagery can increase the hedonic appeal of smaller versus larger food portions.

As we strive to incorporate relevant behavioral research in our work, it’s important to recognize instances of practice informing science informing practice and distinguish iterative design from circular reasoning.

In some cases, it’s obvious where research intends to inform an improvement (rather than simply dissect a phenomena): Eric Johnson (Columbia University) and his colleagues studying choice architecture were fond of an animated screen capture from the Massachusetts health insurance marketplace that illustrates its overwhelming and inefficient comparison tool. In a series of studies, they demonstrate that people — including MBA students — are bad at choosing optimal plans from the current marketplace structure, but can be steered in the right direction with calculation aids and “smarter” defaults. Their paper claims that “implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.”


Massachusetts Health Connector insurance plan comparison tool. Recreated on 10/31/2014 based on Johnson, E. (2014, October). Perspectives Session: Choice Architecture. Session presented at the Association for Consumer Research North American Conference, Baltimore, MD.

Thanks to the Association for Consumer Research organizers and presenters for a great conference! The full 2014 program is available here.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 31st, 2014 at 4:38 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Ogilvy Washington, Policy, Public Health, Research + Insights, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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