NEWS10 July 2019

Marketers have different moral framework from mainstream

Media News UK

UK – Marketers are no more empathetic than the mainstream population and have a different view of the world, according to a study from publisher Reach and insight agency House 51.

Unconscious bias brain image_crop

Drawing on a trait empathy scale developed by psychologists, the quantitative survey of 2,000 UK adults and 199 advertising and marketing professionals found that 30% of marketers displayed high levels of perspective taking and affective empathy.

This is comparable to the score of 29% for the ‘modern mainstream’ – defined as the middle 50% of the public in terms of income.

Andrew Tenzer, director of group insight at Reach Solutions, said: “The idea that we can call upon a special aptitude for empathy to help us understand and sell to people different from us is wishful thinking. Empathy alone isn’t enough to help bridge the gap between marketers and the modern mainstream.”

The study also compared levels of fairness between the two groups, using a version of the ultimatum game developed by Daniel Kahneman and others, in which participants are told they have £50 and can share it with an unknown partner if they want to. According to the research, 69% of people working in advertising and marketing would share the cash equally, compared to a higher 77% of the mainstream population.

When marketers who voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum were told they were playing with a remainer, the number willing to share an equal amount increased to 82%. However, when told they were playing with a ‘leaver’, willingness to share equally dropped to 43%.

The research also examined the moral foundations of marketers compared with the mainstream, using social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s framework. While the two groups place equal importance on individualising ethics (care/harm and fairness/reciprocity), the industry finds the binding ethics (in-group loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity) significantly less important than the public.

Tenzer added: “Simply put, we have a narrower moral foundation than most people. And because our morals are driven at an unconscious level, we find it impossible to give equal weight to the three major foundations that matter less to us personally.” 


1 Comment

5 years ago

I can intuitively believe that those results are valid but I wonder what the margin of error is.

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