Can we change market behavior?
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York University’s Theodore Noseworthy studies why some ideas fail and others succeed. He is an expert in the psychology behind innovation.

“Much of our work has implications for consumer well-being and protection,” says Noseworthy, who is a Canada Research Chair in Entrepreneurial Innovation and the Public Good. “Our lab focuses on how innovations can lead consumers to make biased and sometimes dangerous inferences. For example, we show how fortified foods can cause people to miscategorize the food as healthy and thus fail to self-regulate their intake. “

Noseworthy’s primary theoretical interests are in the area of product categorization and visual processing.

“The stuff we’re doing on monetary and payment innovations is quite interesting,” he says. “We’ve learned how behaviour and inferences can change unexpectedly. For example, the novelty placed of a new innovation can put an initial premium on its use.” Meaning people might actually seek out transactions just to try out a new feature like “tapping” a credit card at the cash rather than swiping.

Of course, newness can also create issues of trust – something that has been a consideration for the introduction of everything from ATMs to online shopping.

“Where security plays an issue, it becomes a double-edged sword,” Noseworthy says. “Diminished spending on generic items might not be offset by big ticket spending because of insecurity with the technology. Hence, the adoption cycle slows, despite what would seem like wide-spread acceptance.”

4. What is the “big picture” for you? Is there a “holy grail” of discovery in your research? Is there an impact on the world you’d like your work to achieve?

Noseworthy’s research suggests there is a distinctly Canadian mindset when it comes to innovation.

“Arguably, Canada’s ‘innovation deficit’ is not as much the lack of investment in R&D (which undoubtedly is a problem), but moreso that the premium we place on innovation and novelty is quite different than in the US. We even teach innovation in a different way.”

Canada does not lack for entrepreneurs, he says, but “We have a shortage of visionaries that exploit the organic nature of an ever evolving market. An innovative mindset not only leads to novel ideas to service the needs of society, but also to the cognitive agility to evolve these ideas within a broader ecosystem.”

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