Friday 17 May 2013

The embodied cognition of Tesco's gendered toys


Tesco got in trouble on the internet last week for having toy chemistry sets labelled as being for boys, not girls in their online store. There's a lot of noise about how inappropriate all this gender labelling is (and rightly so - it's everywhere and it's awful). Lots of potential customers are being very annoyed all over Twitter: so why does Tesco do this? Why is this sort of thing so very common? Oddly, I think an embodied task analysis (using our 4 questions which we describe in our Frontiers paper) might shed some light on this question, while also perhaps serving as an accessible example of what it is we're up to with our work.

The thing that got me thinking was this: a Tesco spokesperson said on Twitter that “Toy signage is currently based on research and how our customers tell us they like to shop in our stores”. No one believed them, with replies ranging from 'what kind of research' to the less useful but more common 'I would never tell you to do this so what the hell?'. I think they are telling the truth, and I think their behaviour can be readily explained using our four key questions. More importantly, I think it reveals how we can change Tesco's behaviour, and the answer means knowing about the extended system from which that behaviour emerges.