What Can Measurements of System 1 Predict?

By Christina Luppi
July 26, 2018

We asked Dr. Aaron Reid, Founder and Chief Behavioral Scientist at Sentient Decision Science, a few of the questions that we most frequently receive from our audience: 

What can measurements of System 1 predict?

“A true measurement of System 1 reveals what is happening automatically in the human mind. Human decision making is a unique combination of System 1 and System 2 processing. If we rely solely on measurements of System 2 (reason-based, deliberative processing) to try to predict behavior, we run the risk of relying too heavily on what people are willing and able to report in a survey. Likewise, if we rely solely on measures of System 1 in our attempts to predict future behavior, we run the risk of missing out on how conscious reflection (even if it’s quick conscious reflection) might filter and alter an otherwise automatic behavioral response.”

So how can we, as researchers, avoid making a costly mistake?
“A best practice in consumer insights research is to incorporate both advanced System 2 measurement techniques (think choice based conjoint and MaxDiff trade-off type exercises rather than Likert-scale based purchase likelihood questions) and true System 1 techniques that isolate the non-conscious (think affective priming and response time, not merely measuring the amount of time it takes to answer a conscious question). When we use the best methods for assessing conscious reflection, and the best methods for isolating non-conscious processing, we have the most robust data on how the human mind is processing stimuli to arrive at a behavioral decision.”

How do we combine those two data sets?
“It’s not enough to simply measure both systems. We also need a theoretically-based and mathematically specified model for how System 1 and System 2 combine to form preferences and drive behavior. There are several models in the decision making literature that allow researchers to base their recommendations to clients in scientific study. One model is the Proportion of Emotion model which uses emotion as a mathematical weighting mechanism in the human mind.  The format of the data that you will get from measuring System 1 will look and feel quite similar to what you get from measuring System 2.  It is typically transformed into understandable, normative scales to ease interpretation.  For example, millisecond response time and swipe velocity data following visual primes are commonly reported on an easy-to-understand 0 to 200 scale, where 100 represents neutral and the poles of the scale represent extreme positive or negative associations.”

How is this better than just measuring System 2 alone?
“When we use a true implicit research technique to measure emotional associations in the consumer mind and mathematically combine that with reason-based reflection we are universally more accurate in predicting consumer behaviors from product sales to online views of an ad.”

To get the answers to your most frequently asked questions about implicit research, emotional measurement, or System 1 thinking, submit your inquiry.

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