In recent months we’ve witnessed the rise of the phenomena like fake news, information bubbles and choice overload. With the EU referendum and US election results being hotly debated, the BBC wanted to understand how people make decisions (large or small) and in particular, to quantify existing hypotheses around this. They also sought to understand how cognitive biases, social pressures and digital technology influence how people find and use information.
Our approach started with analysis from our Culture & Trends team, to look at the trends and influences surrounding decision making. These included:
Information overload and the paradox of choice – busy lives mean we seek out speed and convenience and depend on technology; we make more decisions and they’re harder due to the amount of choice and information we have; choice overwhelms us so we make the easiest decision rather than the right decision.
Trust and influence – nothing feels truly authentic; consumers increasingly go with gut feel rather than ‘the facts’; an expert view is only part of the mix; experience is more trusted than expertise.
Digital content and the echo chamber – real and fictional stories are presented in a similar way, it’s difficult to tell them apart; filter bubbles reinforce our pre-existing views, we depend on them to ‘edit’ noise; we’re not encouraged to think critically, but many know this must change.
There followed two rounds of quantitative research using our extensive suite of people-centred research tools. The first looked at how people classify decisions, with the results identifying six types of decision. The second survey validated different approaches to decision making, taking into account demographics, attitudes and personalities.
At the end of the project we were able to give the BBC a vast and multi-faceted understanding of people and decision making, summarised as eight decision approaches. The study has led to further research around election voting, and has prompted the BBC to consider what impact these decision approaches have on their content strategy.