Rehearsing your next imitation

We've had a good month here at Spring Research for several reasons chief of which was Steve Phillips and Abi Hill carrying off the Best Paper prize for their presentation on Behavioural Economics at the ESOMAR Amsterdam research conference. There are several aspects of BE which impact on how research ought to be carried out: choice architecture – we make different decisions based on how choices are structured for us, anchoring – depending on how we are primed our perceptions of value are massively skewed/manipulated and the herd effect – originality is hard and unpleasant – its much easier to copy.

So to our topic of today – that if you want to do something or say something new its much more likely that you latch onto an existing behaviour or an opinion than that you say something you've never heard anybody else say.  Never noticed yourself doing it? No that's because these rehearsals are taking place below conscious levels. You read the Metro on the train in the morning – while you are reading you are also noting interesting topics which you may hear others picking up or which are worth starting yourself at coffee time. This is a hugely embarassing realisation in a culture which post romanticism likes to promote individualism and originality – sorry folks there's not a lot of originality out there – each member of the England rugby team is more likely to individually smuggle a ball on to the pitch and hide in their shirts. Its a lot easier to use the match ball when it comes their way and to pass it down the line. There's a great book out in paperback this month called Disciples which is a series of photos of music fans at concerts who curiously enough are dressed alike and usually in imitation of the artist they have come to see. Dollyparton



Once you have absorbed this very simple idea you realise how much of the time you are actually learning or as I would put it rehearsing unconsciously. Its famously tricky to research. Mainly because our instinct is to deny how derivative our behaviour and conversations are. So we can track the spread of ideas using online monitoring of social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter for example. But it has got me thinking about whether we can accurately and honestly review our rehearsals of the previous 30 minutes. Can we pull these out? A lot of our imitation is right below the surface- choosing the most Dolly Parton like top probably is too deep – could hypnotism help here?  But now you know your core skill is rapid and creative imitation it takes away the pressures to try to demonstrate originality – once banished we should be studying copiable ideas and best practice copying behaviour



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