When something is on your mind – whether it’s often on your mind or has recently been activated in your brain (e.g., by an ad) – you notice it quickly an respond to it more strongly that you respond to other things in your environment. For example, when you are at a cocktail party, all kinds of conversation are going on around you. For the most part, you do not hear them and instead focus on your own. But should someone start talking about something of interest to you or utter a word that is meaningful to you (your name, for example), you suddenly become acutely aware of the other conversation. Clearly you brain was processing it all along or you couldn’t have noticed your name. We humans evolved to work this way – to respond on “autopilot” unless something grabs our attention, and to address it unconsciously unless it seems to require us t shine the spotlight of consciousness on it.
There are two basic technologies for getting at unconscious processes and the “gut-level” emotions that influence much of our behavior: reaction time and unconscious priming. We measure these using the Implicit Networks Test and the Implicit Emotions Test Respectively.
The Implicit Emotions Test
The idea that you can get people to buy Coca Cola by flashing “buy Coke” subliminally was debunked a long time ago. But the brain is, in fact, capable of registering things too quick for us to see consciously. When done right, information can be presented too quickly to reach consciousness but slow enough for the brain to process and trigger a gut-level, emotional response. This allows us to measure “gut-level” emotional responses to products, ads, trailers, and other forms of communication even when people are not aware of having felt anything. This is the basis for our second measure, the Implicit Emotions Test. So how does it work? Suppose we show people an ad and then present the product logo slowly enough for respondents’ brains to register but too quickly to be consciously recognized. Then we present something they can see (e.g., a “generic” version of the same product) and ask them to make some “gut-level” judgments about it: “Do you like it?” “Is it something you’d want?” “Does it seem dangerous?” “Is it exciting?” Those judgments will be affected by their feelings about whatever was presented outside of awareness. In this way, we can learn what their attitudes are toward the product after seeing an ad and we can compare it with another ad, a competitor’s ad, or no ad at all.
Putting it All Together
This combination of tests, that pierce the veil of consciousness, is unique to Implicit Strategies and it yields important information that cannot be obtained in any other way. Alone or in combination with conscious measures, a company or campaign can learn a great deal about the consumer, moviegoer, or voter. In statistical terms, Implicit Strategies adds to the variation of consumer behavior explained over and above what you can learn by just asking people. Effective, efficient assessment of attitude that shape behavior outside of awareness – that is what we do. 2010 Implicit Strategies All rights reserved.