Meet the Editors: Elina

A couple of days ago we posted a letter from us, the editors, promising to subject ourselves to the same kind of scrutiny as our interviewees during these past seven months. This week we’re introducing Elina and Neda, but in the next couple of months you will also get to meet our contributors and sub-editors. 

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Elina is a part-time Marketing PhD student at University of Turku (Finland). Her research focuses on consumer decision making strategies in cross-cultural contexts. She also leads a double life as the founding partner of The Irrational Agency, a London-based market research agency that uses behavioural economics and consumer psychology to advise companies on pricing strategy. 

I’m working on InDecision because… I had previously set up a similar blog for cross-cultural psychology students earlier and it was positively received so I thought something like that should exist for early career researchers in decision making psychology as well. In general, I’m passionate about promoting younger researchers because good ideas can come from anywhere, yet without accolades and years of experience under our belt it’s hard to get your voice heard. Our thinking creates the future of the field, so why not start showcasing it sooner?

We deliberately wanted to keep the scope of the blog broad as so many fields contribute to our understanding of how humans make decisions. While some might argue we should focus solely on judgment and decision-making or behavioural economics, similar research issues are also being addressed other fields. Research on motivation, persuasion, values, attitudes and culture as well as economics are all important so we wanted to include these areas as well – besides, as Jim Bettman says, good research is like “ideas having sex” so hopefully featuring the full spectrum we can help in “cross-fertilising” ideas.

I’m most passionate about… Bringing academia and industry closer together. Having worked in market research for years while keeping one foot in academia, I’ve long despaired over practitioners’ ignorance of the diversity of knowledge available within the scientific literature. At the same time, I’ve been equally surprised at the lack of engagement from marketing scholars in the world of business, which sometimes leads to work that is irrelevant to practitioners. Both worlds have their strengths and weaknesses, but if they learned from each other and worked together at least a little bit more… we’d all be better off. For industry, not every wheel needs to be reinvented nor all lessons need to be learned the hard way – asking an expert may save you a lot of money. For academia, industry could offer an opportunity to ground our work in real life, access to funds most of us chronically lack and, most importantly, a chance to make a difference!

At a conference you’ll most likely find me in a session with key words like… self-concept, narratives, identity, individual differences, culture, consumer, brands, heuristics, choice. My academic tastes are perhaps somewhat eclectic and I love the knowledge festival aspect of conferences – it’s probably what go me hooked into academia! Over time, the “fount of knowledge” novelty has given way to the anxiety brought on by presenting your own work, but I still enjoy learning new things and meeting new people. My research interests lie in understanding how the way we see ourselves affects the choices we make in life, as well as how one’s cultural context factors into the process. We’re story-tellers by nature, so what stories we tell ourselves about our lives must also affect the way we make decisions – that also filters how we see the choice environment. Perhaps focusing on what feels like the messy end of decision making is a bit hippieish (“we’re all different yet equal”) but that’s also what makes it so fascinating.

How I ended up doing research in this field… For cross-cultural psychology, my life-long interest in languages and the cultures they live in has always been in the background. However, the experience of living in other countries and trying to make sense of other cultures has made me realise that there is no one truth, no one way to look at the world – instead, what we see hugely depends on where we grew up, what language we speak and what we see as valuable in life. As might be the case for many of us in psychology, a lot of it is about trying to understand yourself through studying others. What part of me is my own personality, what part is the cultural context I grew up in? For decision making psychology, it’s also always been in the background, but my deeper immersion was kick-started by meeting my friend and business partner Leigh Caldwell, who opened up my eyes to a whole new world of behavioural economics and JDM. It felt like finding a long-lost treasure – I don’t know if I would’ve discovered it on my own so I’m forever grateful to him for introducing me to this field.

My personal research heroes are… many, but some stand out more prominently than others. Coming across the work on adaptive decision making by Bettman, Payne and Luce a year ago was equivalent to an epiphany – it made a huge impact on me. Because of my interest in cross-cultural research decision making, I’ve also been impressed by the work of Elke Weber and Chris Hsee in this area. However, my big research heroes lie in cross-cultural psychology: Hazel Markus and Richard Nisbett. Their work has been influential to my thinking and interest in the field. Finally, the work by Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan on the WEIRDness of psychology research is probably the most fascinating article I’ve ever read. While not everything is influenced by culture, without validating our findings in multiple cultural contexts I don’t believe we can claim them to be universally human – if even colour perception isn’t safe from it, how can anything else be?

What I find most challenging is… Finding a balance.  As a self-diagnosed infoholic, I’m drowning in papers and books I want to read. Every time I look up a paper I end up downloading three others because they look interesting so my laptop is buckling under the hundreds of papers I’ve vowed to read one day yet never have time for. This condition is exacerbated by the dual nature of my work: one the one hand there are papers I want to read for my own research, on the other my commercial work requires me to look for answers everywhere from social cognition to sensory marketing via partitioned presentation of multicomponent bundles. Sometimes I feel like a Swiss army knife with a small, handy tool to tinker with everything while not having enough leverage for anything big! Still, I feel incredibly lucky to combine my passions this way even if I’m perpetually feeling guilty about not knowing enough about the world.

What I’d be doing if I wasn’t a researcher… I really don’t know. Sadly, understanding what makes people tick is the one thing that really makes me tick, so I’d struggle to think of an alternative career. I’ve always loved animals so maybe I’d like to work with them, even though that’s still trying to figure out what goes inside their head…

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One thought on “Meet the Editors: Elina

  1. Pingback: Meet the Editors: Neda | :InDecision:

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