NEWS16 March 2021

Ben Page: ‘We need to stop talking about change’

Covid-19 Impact 2021 News Trends

UK – There has been too much focus on behaviour change and most people’s values have not altered over the years, Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, has told MRS Impact 2021 conference.

Ben Page

In a session criticising the overwhelming focus on changes to people’s lives, Page (pictured in 2020 ) said that much of the evidence from polling suggests that attitudes and values remain constant over long periods of time.

“We need to stop talking about change. I know it is exciting, I know it is interesting to find new things constantly, but I think we need to stop and take stock and remind ourselves that a lot of change we think is happening isn’t really, and that a lot of things don’t change,” Page said.

“Our needs fundamentally don’t change that much. Most of our behaviour defaults to not changing or not trying something new. I, like everybody else, is subject to the status quo bias.”

Page said that many people were wrong to declare the world would be fundamentally different after Covid-19, while ignoring that the pandemic was a catalyst for existing societal trends and that many behaviours would resume once restrictions eased.

“We need to be careful saying everything is changing and everything will be new after the pandemic,” Page said.

“It is certainly true that Covid-19 has forced a lot of change on us. But we were already banking online and streaming movies – we have just done more of it because of the pandemic.”

People are also spotting changes that are not actually happening, Page said, such as declaring a fall in trust and public confidence in politics, government and institutions that has actually existed for decades.

Page also said that many concerns about the modern world – such as the introduction of new technology – were not unique to this moment in time. For example, people had concerns about the introduction of trains, bicycles and the printing press, as well as the internet and smartphones, and fears about emerging technology had stayed at a similar level for years.

Instead, Page said the focus should be on people’s values and how they develop.

“Our values are deeper-held views about how things ought to be,” he said. “Some values are more valuable than others – they are salient and do change over time, but not that quickly.

“Sometimes I think our focus on endless change – the jogging up and down of opinion – is distracting us from what is really going on.”

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