Why do people say one thing and then do another

Gatwick_airport_3The importance of looking at what people do, not just what they say, was bought home to me by a humorous example from Dr Clotiare Rapaille last week.

In research potential passengers what they would like to see in a new plane if money was no object.   You won’t be surprised to know it was more space, greater comfort, better service. 

This is all very well but there is a problem.  People’s actual behaviour when money is no object is completely different.  As soon as they can afford it they take a private jet; which has less space, less comfort and poorer or no service!

Why the discrepancy?  Why do people’s behaviour result in the exact opposite of what they say they want?  It is because when money is no object they focus on eliminating the things they really hate.  Of course they would like more space or better service but what they want most of all is “no airport”.  Private jets enable them to get as close to this as possible.  Sufficiently close in fact that they will forgo the space, comfort and service in order to minimise the airport experience.

On the basis of this you can be pretty sure that “simple, quick airport experience” could be a power attribute for an airline!

What can we learn from this?  Framing the context of any research is critical.  In this example for instance people make their travel decisions on a much broader set of attributes than just what happens on the plane.  By limiting research to just what happens on board potential opportunities to improve the whole experience are missed.