Neuroscience: Three Major Shifts to Keep in Mind

We know that much of consumer buying behavior is driven by emotion. So, the ability to understand emotional response is critical to comprehending what may be the most influential driver of business success. And yet, powerful emotional response  so often resides in the non-conscious parts of our brain. How then, can we as researchers harness the emotional  influence on decisions to better understand consumer behavior?

My recent article published in Quirk’s Marketing Research Review addresses “What’s Next for Non-Conscious Measurement?” Specifically, the article focuses on how we are mastering our understanding of human emotions and decision drivers at the non-conscious level. It identifies three major shifts in the way we collect data in our quest to better measure non-conscious consumer response.

  1. Shifts in Perspective

The quick adoption of non-conscious research methods has led to a rapid evolution in perspective about these tools. They are clearly rising in acceptance and perception of importance. But importantly, the research industry has matured to recognize the importance of both non-conscious and conscious response, ideally analyzed together in the same context of reaction to a stimuli. Conscious measurement is not going away, as consumer decisions are not  entirely rational or entirely emotional. They’re both. The richest insights come from layering non-conscious measurements with traditional research methods. There’s also no ‘right’ nonconscious tool for every research problem. Each solution brings its own unique advantages, and experts have a better understanding of what they can and cannot achieve. Finally, we’re seeing a growing interest in behavioral economics, focusing on understanding the decision outcomes by taking into account emotional and other psychological factors.

  1. Shifts in Emerging Methods

It is likely that you have heard a lot lately about facial coding, implicit reaction time testing , eye-tracking, biometrics and EEG. Over the past several years, these most of these non-conscious measurement methods have become increasingly reliable, scalable and affordable. And we can expect even more testing options to come with rapid innovations in technology for both hardware and software. For instance, with the explosion of consumer wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch gaining attention, there are also new possibilities emerging with mobile biometrics that capture heart rate and GSR.

  1. Shifts in Practices

When it comes to research practices, non-conscious methods are becoming standard and more universally accepted. Clients and researchers are no longer asking if they should include non-conscious methods. Instead, they’re asking “Which non-conscious methods are best to use?” The field is also no longer the exclusive domain of neuro boutiques. Large and mid-size market research firms have adopted these methodologies by conducting R&D, hiring experts and partnering with boutique providers. Hence, the term ‘traditional research agency’ is losing meaning, as the large players aggressively innovate and implement new solutions in this area.

Interested in learning more about what’s next for non-conscious measurement? Click here to read the full article in the January issue of Quirk’s: http://www.quirks.com/articles/2015/20150109.aspx