Could scientist’s revelations about unconscious optimism help protection marketing?

The Money Debate is sure that most of the protection industry  was watching Horizon earlier in the week. Clever bunch you see. Anyway for the few of you who missed it, the programme looked at the unconscious mind and its influence on our decisions and outlook. The key part involves the Money Debate’s scientist of the week Dr Tali Sharot of University College London using a brain scanner to consider our optimism and pessimism and testing how we assess various risks including the risk of getting illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The experiment puts 80 questions to the subject Tom asking him to rate his chances of getting a certain condition or a certain thing happening, then tells him the correct answer and then asks the 80 questions again. If people err on the high side and are corrected then they remember the optimistic conclusion. If they err on the low side however they ignore it and the scanner shows that part of the brain arguably malfunctioning on purpose. What might also be fascinating would be to see similar questions and the scan results when the subject is risks to family members.

Now I can see how this could have massive implications not just for how protection is marketed but also for the sort of conversations IFAs have with their clients about it. Perhaps scare tactics don’t work or certainly they require more subtlety. Actually I think Aviva might have cracked it already. But it may explain why advisers’ warnings – say about the chances of getting cancer – may be ignored on an individual basis i.e. the ‘it won’t happen to me’ syndrome. I’m sure individual IFAs already instinctively deal with this but it’s still worth a look.

Here is the link to the BBC iplayer and the part is at about 20 minutes 30 seconds. There’s some brilliant stuff about ants as well but I don’t think it’s got an application in protection. Well not yet.