How Tapping System 1 Processing Reveals Deep Consumer Insights

By Sentient Decision Science, Inc.
October 17, 2014
Traditional market research techniques have relied on System 2 processing, which can only tell you part of the story. System 2 is deliberative: you ask a question and you get an answer. And that’s valuable information.
But what about the insights that your study participants can’t, or won’t, articulate in words? What if they aren’t sure themselves what’s behind their behavior? That’s why market researchers need research tools that can tap into System 1 processing.
Watch as Dr. Aaron Reid describes how System 1 and System 2 analysis can work together in revealing the deepest market research insights available.
>>Dr. Reid: OK so I want to start with System 1 vs. System 2 processing. Some of you may recognize this image.
System 1 processing, popularized by Daniel Kahneman is really about what’s happening automatically, in your mind, without your conscious control.
System 1 is fast, it’s associative in nature—that’s really important. It’s often emotional in nature. And it’s happening subconsciously.
System 2, on the other hand, is deliberate. It’s reason-based. And this is also very important: it’s propositional in nature. What that means is System 2, which is your rational mind, is functioning on “if/then” statements: “if I do this, then this outcome will occur, therefore I want to do that.”
That’s a long process, right? You can imagine that if we only had System 2, our conscious mind, we would have a very difficult time navigating our days.
We need System 1 to get through our days to process all of the stimuli that’s in our environment.
This is happening very rapidly. As you may have heard this morning, some psychologists estimate that 95% or more of all human thought is happening in System 1, below the level of subconscious awareness. I think you can probably quibble with that number, but we know that it is the vast majority of processing that’s happening in System 1.
The issue facing market research, or what we’ve been faced with for the last several years, is that most of our conscious research methods are tapping into System 2. Our surveys, our deliberate questions of people.
We’re asking people to deliberate on something. We’re saying, “look at this and tell me what you think.” It’s very distinctly a System 2 process: it’s rational, it’s deliberative, and it’s slow. And it’s only a portion of what really drives human behavior.
So we need methods that can tap into System 1, into the subconscious processing, in order to get a more holistic picture of what’s really driving consumer behavior.
How many people were familiar with System 1 and System 2 processing, before I talked about it? This is a very engaged crowd. Wonderful.
So we can use our surveys, these are very important, and you’re going to see this theme throughout the talk. We’re not saying throw out everything that’s been done in market research in the last 50 years. There have been really important advances, particularly on refining our deliberative research tools, that we want to continue to include in our methods.
What we want to do is augment those methods with strong implicit or subconscious methods. So we want to use these two together. It’s not all about the subconscious, it’s about the combination of the two: the conscious and the subconscious.

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