Are you MIsusing the sciences to back up a claim?

As I wrote on my WordPress Blog page, I am using the sciences to back up my claims. I am not the only one and there are further blog formats that also use the sciences to back up their claims. The sciences I relate to scientific papers that are for example peer-reviewed. Now what’s the catch? Nowadays, I am certainly not the only one, you can open Google Scholar and then you type in what you are looking for and when you are lucky, which you likely are because we are saturated on the sciences, you find a scientific article that you are looking for – to confirm what you think and want to convey. Just to give you an example; Sex is awesome, oh suprise an older study confirms it is awesome. My obvservation is valid.

A former professor of mine referred to it as scientific “cherry-picking and I am delighted that she taught me about it, because indeed she is right. It is as easy these days to write a blog, possibly policy and investement suggestions and and cherry-pick the foundation for it as easy as it is not to. You could not do so and be honest, while following logical argumentation and analysing “its” meaning but hypothetically, the validity of your own argument is lost for further recognition, making what you write and what is to be read rather invalid, if not even stupid without scientific evidence. Instead we trust the sciences and how we read it, to then make a claim or to confirm the claim we try to make; “We should invest into bitcoin”, because in the future people will like it, according to this study and not carefully delibertion of it; its method and outcome and done for who by who and how. Logically and if we are being honest, it can also be not like that, because the future is too uncertain and more studies would have to be done etc. Some studies or the ability to publish is furthermore exclusive too, making the sciences limited to what I call a bit elitaire and exclusive towards different knowledge.

Now more about the sciences and how they are used, by who and why. You will find that a NGO X is making claims and then tends to use a study or at least parts of it to confirm their claim or to receive funding. In my field, known the field of sustainability something similiar can be found. “A” is sustainable minded and wants that people consume more sustainable and to do so needs money for purpose “B”. A will now look for an article on consumer studies and finds one (favored are studies by business consultencies and market research institutes) to confirm that 60% of consumers of a random sample group want to buy more sustainable. The study confirms what A was looking for, whilst ignoring wishful thinking which is that many people not actually want it and the fact that 40% don’t want to buy more sustainable etc. A yet receives some funding and the investment into for example sustainable apparel flops.

Now this goes further and further, making its way into the sciences itself, which is to research to confirm or to develop something that confirms the hypothesis, or what the client needs. This can happen if the research is steered towards a specific set of expected responses “How much do you like this?” instead of “How do you view this?” (Even if you ask how much do you like this, you make liking the main option). No? Ever been asked how much you dislike something that should be of liking and then rate it? My former professor (thank you at this point) referred to it as being the devils advocate. If you are an honest broker, you research and provide different options and the outcomes could be of choosing for the client. Ideally, you would be a pure scientist, making objective observation or picking objective studies by as much as possible (Pielke Jr, R. A., 2007). The latter tends to receive little funding because it can lead to non desired outcomes, obviously.

Now what is it that I want from you? Have a look at your resources and don’t use them, if you don’t want to and do if you want to. Why? Because its vicious and risks that investements and hopes are placed falsely. Have a look at studies that don’t confirm what you are looking for. It itches, but may give room for different spaces to thrive,for example new ideas, strategies, projects and policies and even not where they should not.

Recommended references:

Evans, A., Sleegers, W., & Mlakar, Ž. (2020). Individual differences in receptivity to scientific bullshit. Judgment and Decision Making15(3), 401.

Pai, M. (2020). How Prestige Journals Remain Elite, Exlusive And Exclusionary. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/madhukarpai/2020/11/30/how-prestige-journals-remain-elite-exclusive-and-exclusionary/?sh=5e90a3254d48

Pielke Jr, R. A. (2007). The honest broker: making sense of science in policy and politics. Cambridge University Press.

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On short-commings and opportunities in the social part of sustainability in a firms’ value delivery

As many definitions seem to circle around the term sustainability, as many interpretations exist and as many misconception towards the terminology exists as well. As a consequence, most attention is paid towards the “ecological” dimension of sustainability and lesser attention is paid towards the “social” dimension of it, or it is perceivingly narrowed;

Social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people. The quality of a company’s relationships and engagement with its stakeholders is critical.” (UNGlobalcompact)

What is social sustainability not?

A business model that is based on growth, whereby consumers are unconciously influenced into thinking that they need a certain product, is not social sustainable. In fact it is the opposite, if the consumer realizes upon purchase that the product does not contribute to consumer well-being over time, but the opposite. If advertisment or the business model logic is purposely based on that, it is not sustainable.

How can the purchase of a product result in dissatisfaction?

A psychoanalyist explained me that sales work by selling an ideal. That is an ideal lifestyle, thinking one needs to have a certain good or product to match the ideal in advertisment. In reality, this can not be the case, because each person is different by biology and by nature the ideal they have for themselves. When an ideal is sold on the other hand, it distracts from the consumers ideal-self and on the other hand presents an ideal the consumer likely cannot meet.

A consequence is that after purchase the consumer likely will not be satisfied for a while, since the consumer cannot reach the ideal. As a result the level of dissatisfaction with the product rises and the level of dissatisfaction with the consumer self-rises “Not good enough for product xy”. Consequently more products are purchased to meet the ideal.

What if products were satisfying?

The higher the discrepancy between oneself with the idealized product or lifestyle, the more likely new ones will be purchased or the more likely other lifestyles might be persued that appear ideal to one-self. However, often these ideals cannot be reached and that is frustrating;

“Even if I like celebrity x, I will never be celebrity x if I buy their clothing. Even if I buy article y, I will currently not likely have the life-sytle the model(s) is marketing. Even if I buy the bra that has been modelled with larger breast size, wearing the same bra model will look much different on me. Even if I buy the phone that is used and advertized by a successfull manager, I will not need it for this purpose, because I do not manage. Even if I buy the sport article, that I do not like, because I like actaully another sport, I will not like the sport more that has been advertized so joyfull. Therefore, I wonder, what is wrong with me when I buy these articles. Ideally I should realize that nothing, because I determine what I like for myself and how products should support my individuality without marketing it.”

Can business models run without idealization and how could it look like?

Marketing often illustrates “ideal families” often a mother, a father and two children. But families these days are more, there are single mothers, single fathers, divorced families. There are people of different skin colours, different interests in different circumstances. People have different budgets, sometimes people get dirty, sometimes a life-style (within the messy, wondering, beautiful, bizarr and odd world we life in) is far more than ideal. And I think the closer advertisment can meet up to these ideals and illustrate how products, can add value to these weird and strangling lifestyles, the more satsified consumers are with these products and the ideals or life-styles most true to them.

To deliver sustainable value, businesses may think about the following;

  • How can the diversity of culture be delivered in business models?
  • How does the business model deviate from selling an identity or lifestyle but instead helps the consumer to promote their own identity or lifestyle?
  • How is satisfaction sold during and at the end of the production life?
  • How can the ecological value be combined with social value to the consumer and producers of the products?
  • How is being ensure that the products contributes to mental well-being?
  • Can you account for mental-health in ESG?

Resources

Abdallat, M. M. (2012). Actual self-image, ideal self-image and the relation between satisfaction and destination loyalty. Journal of Tourism and Hospitality1(4).

Annas, G. J. (1985). Fashion and freedom: when artificial feeding should be withdrawn. American Journal of Public Health75(6), 685-688.

Landon Jr, E. L. (1974). Self concept, ideal self concept, and consumer purchase intentions. Journal of consumer research1(2), 44-51.

Malär, L., Krohmer, H., Hoyer, W. D., & Nyffenegger, B. (2011). Emotional brand attachment and brand personality: The relative importance of the actual and the ideal self. Journal of marketing75(4), 35-52.

Morrison, A. P. (2009). On ideals and idealization. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1159(1), 75-85.