Predicting Consumer Choice with Implicit Association Testing & Reason-Based Judgements

Christina Luppi
Sr. Manager of Marketing

Implicit association testing has opened up previously undiscovered channels of market research, but in order to get the most out of implicit data researchers should also plan to incorporate data based on reason-based judgements.

It’s the combination of System 1 and System 2 processing that drives consumers to make the choices they do, so it stands to reason that the best way to analyze their behavior is to take both models into account.

Watch as Dr. Aaron Reid, Chief Behavioral Scientist at Sentient Decision Science, illustrates how to use a combination of implicit association testing and reason-based judgements to make the most informed marketing choices.


>>Dr. Reid: So what is implicit association testing?

Don’t think of a white bear. No really! Don’t think of a white bear. So, what happens, obviously.

When somebody tells you to not think of a white bear, what happens? You can’t help it. You can’t not think of a white bear.

This is an old trick from the social psychologists to illustrate the idea of automatic, irrepressible cognition. We call this a “prime.”

When you’re primed with an image or a word or a sound or a scent, something happens automatically for you in your mind. Those associations that you have with that prime become accessible. And it influences your behavior toward or away from that stimulus.

Implicit association testing works on this basic principle, of priming and response time following a prime.

So, just like the white bear, when we show you Disney, what happens? You have automatic associations with that brand. They might be, for example, celebration, warmth, childhood, security…

Whatever your associations with Disney, when you are primed with the Disney brand, those associations become more accessible.

And we’ve known this in marketing, that we’ve wanted our brands to be top-of-mind. But now we know there’s a neural basis for that. You can see we have a way to talk about it.

The strength of those associations can be characterized as your implicit attitude towards that brand, and they influence your behavior toward or away from that brand.

When we think of System 1 and System 2 thinking, think of that as System 1 what’s happening automatically and associatively in your mind.

It’s really one piece of the picture. So we see Disney we might think childhood, celebration, warmth… that may give rise to an emotion like happiness, that you actually feel. Or you may have those implicit associations with happiness.

But theres more going on there, right? it’s not just System 1 that determines whether you take a vacation at Disney. You actually engage your System 2, or your rational mind.

And when you think of—it’s very cognitive in nature, there’s formulas involved. And when you think of a vacation of seven days in Disney you might feel good. But then you see the price tag is $9,300 (I made that number up, if Disney’s in the room, I don’t know the actual price), but what kind of emotion is that gong to lead to? Maybe anxiety.

And so, this becomes an emotional push and pull for the consumer. All of that data is quantifiable now that we have these advanced implicit association research tools. We can actually quantify the degree of emotional weight that people place on all of those associations that they have with a brand, as well as the negative emotional reaction, if it’s there, for the price. And that weighting mechanism helps determine ultimate consumer choice.

We want to encourage everyone to think about integrative models of the conscious and the subconscious to determine consumer choice.

1 Comment

  • Adrien says:

    I suppose that you can’t explain it all in 3min. But I feel really interested and have some questions: -what of the awareness level, trust level due to experience with the brand and where it has been elevated or deteriorated, how is it impacting the associations strength?
    -Also, aren’t Primes related to a mood on the moment. For example I might have different associations towards Disney after spending one day alone, or after an exhausting day taking care of wild kids at the kindergarden.
    Thanks for the explanations

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