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The Latest Buzz in Market Research Science

By: Kay Siefken

By now, most of you have heard of System 1 versus System 2 thinking. If you haven’t, this probably sounds like some new divided brain theory or AI robotics. It’s not. Let’s break it down for you.

According to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, System 1 and System 2 are like two different personalities. “System 1 operates automatically and quickly with little effort or control.” “It cannot be turned off at will.” “System 2 attends to activities that require mental effort.”1

Kahneman has shown that we all do lots of things almost without thinking. Embarrassing as that may be, it’s true.

Why should you care? Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of consumers’ decision-making for purchases takes place in the subconscious mind.2

This holds true when people make decisions about brand names too. They react quickly and intuitively. In the real world, few will stop and spend time analyzing and agonizing over a brand name choice. They glance at names and products online or on-shelf and use their instincts, choose and move on.

Traditional market research tools have no way to measure these System 1 responses. Asking direct questions requires reading and thinking, so it more likely measures System 2 thinking.

Today there are tools available or being developed to measure System 1 thinking. Eye-tracking, facial coding, fMRIs, biometrics are all being used to assess System 1 reactions. For quantitative studies, some of these tools are not practical or are still in infancy. But there are proven ways to do this.

People attend first to things that are the most relevant or important to them at the moment. 3 This fact can be used to gauge System 1 thinking. The order of selection, relative timing, and even non-selection all provide insights into participants’ intuitive reactions. NameStormers uses this implicit information along with direct responses in its behavior science name testing, giving our clients a multi-dimensional picture of how participants think about names.

Next time you need to do a research study, remember to factor in how your customers make decisions in the real world.

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