Insights From The American Council On Consumer Interests Annual Conference

What to take away from the conference at the “interface of psychology and economics?”

 
 

On Thursday and Friday of last week, members of the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) held their annual conference in Crystal City, VA.

The ACCI works to improve consumer and family economic well-being by presenting research in its peer-reviewed Journal of Consumer Affairs, as well as through its annual conference. At the conference, attendees presented research two ways: in breakout sessions to assembled crowds and, more personally, on posters.

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The long hallway where ACCI attendees socialize and study poster presentations.

Conference attendees were mainly academics — both professors and PhD candidates — and much of the research presented at the conference focused on financial well-being and behavior. As conference speaker Vera Rita de Mello Ferreira (a psychoanalyst, economic psychology consultant, and researcher from Brazil) said, much of what was presented at the conference lay at the “interface of psychology and economics.”

For example, one of the posters on Thursday presented a logistic regression to see how different factors influenced banking behaviors among millennials. Using data from the 938 millennial respondents of the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), researchers Dr. Hajeong Kim and Dr. Sharon DeVaney found that “being married, more education, ATM use, direct deposit, direct bill payment, and computer software use for managing money were positively related to the likelihood of using internet banking.”

However, “millennials who did not have computer experience to manage their money were more likely to do business with their financial institution in person.”

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The poster presentation of millennial banking behaviors.

Another poster, “High School Students Financial Behavior: The Role of Decision Contest, and Access to Money” by DR? Veronica Deenanath and Sharon Danes, found that access to money significantly affected high school students’ financial behaviors. Students with jobs outside the household demonstrated a greater number of healthy financial behaviors than peers who did not.

“The opportunity to create their own access to money…may allow children from low-income families whose families are unbanked to gain entry into the banking system from an early age and may allow them to fill in gaps in financial knowledge,” the research found.

In Thursday’s afternoon session, Michael Collins presented a paper called “Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Financial Education on Elementary School Students’ Knowledge, Behavior, and Attitudes.” Royal Credit Union ($1.8B, Eau Claire, WI) was a partner.

The researchers integrated financial concepts into the math, language, and social studies curriculum of 10 and 11-year-old students in Eau Claire, WI for six months. Students took before and after 13 question assessments before and after the curriculum and researchers found about a one to two question improvement. They then retested students six months later and found little to no knowledge loss.

The research also found that students who took this curriculum were more likely to open bank accounts at the school, however, according to Collins, the finding was not statistically significant. What the researchers found was that kids accounts are more transitory. They will move money in and out during the school year and will usually take it all out before the start of summer.

Psychoanalyst Ferreira gave the keynote address on Friday morning, asking the question: “Do We Always Choose What Is Best For Us?”

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The author was ready to ask questions at Vera Rita de Mello Ferreira's keynote address.

Her talk focused on the lack of rationality in human decision making: that having the time and ability to simply think rather than focus on survival is still a recent achievement and therefore emotions and impulses are still more powerful than reason in the decision making process.

To influence consumer behavior, de Mello Ferreira says, especially in an era where the “world wants everything from us” and “we are limited and forced to make choices,” influencers must “nudge” consumers. Nudges can take many forms, but they help change behavior in small ways with (potentially) large benefits to both parties.

Take, for example, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Dealing with messy men’s restrooms was costly and time consuming. So the airport decided to place stickers of flies in each of the urinals in its men’s restrooms. Subconsciously, men focused on these flies, reducing spillage and resulting in 80% cleaner restrooms. And that’s certainly a benefit to everyone.