NEWS19 September 2014

Behavioural science predicted a No vote says Cialdini

News UK

UK — Robert Cialdini, one of the most eminent social scientists in the field of influence and persuasion, predicted a No vote in the Scottish referendum based on behavioural science understanding, and not politics.


Speaking at a meeting yesterday of the London Behavioural Economics Network to promote his book The Small Big, the Regents’ professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University said that a reluctance to change among the undecided voters would tip the balance in favour of the No vote.

Today, after the referendum result was announced in favour of the No vote — 55% voted against Independence to 45% in favour — Cialdini (pictured) said he was heartened that a prediction that came from a knowledge of behavioural science, and not a knowledge of the politics of the situation, was affirmed by the election results.

“The behavioural science finding that applies is that when people are uncertain there are psychological consequences. They’re reluctant to change; they sit on the fence and they stay with the status quo. And that’s because they’re afraid of losing. When you’re unsure you don’t want to take a step into the unknown because of the negative consequences that may come.

“When I arrived in the UK three days ago, I saw the polls were very tight, even one with the Yes vote winning, but I also saw that there were 10 – 12% voters uncertain. There was an expectation that flowed directly from that piece of knowledge – it meant that in a close election the Nos were going to win, because No meant don’t change, and avoid the possibility of loss,” he said.



10 years ago

Couldn't have put this better the analysis at equimedia has consistently pointed to a No vote . While many commentators have simply reviewed the social media conversation ( and come up with Yes as a result), it's only when social media is combined with Big Data, can organisations accurately predict certain outcomes, as we’ve been able to do with the Scottish Referendum: Many organisations monitor social media, yet few fully exploit the insight to its full potential. The increasing availability of big and social data, especially in a business environment, creates exciting opportunities for brands to gain competitive market advantage. Brands can no longer ignore the need to improve their understanding of their customers in order to deliver a first-class product and service offering and social media is becoming an ever-important part of this process.

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10 years ago

Paint me unconvinced, Richard. Unfortunately, the nature of the vote (binary result) and the easy availability of definitive sources (money markets) made it pretty easy to call, and spot social media data as being unreliable. Essentially, I was able to predict a No vote, and I don't have access to any big data. So I'm not sure you prove your case - give us a prediction on something more difficult!

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10 years ago

Even easier was to talk to ordinary Scots about a) the pressure from big employers b) the top-down instructions from The Orange Order and c) the overwhelming dominance of lies from the mainstream media Not sure Cialdini's models work for longer-term change. The conversation has just starter.

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