Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats

Most house owners know the feeling: you look at a potential house on the market and you feel an instant click. Buy buy buy! Your brain has, in a matter of seconds or minutes, just made one of the most expensive decisions of your life. Laws nowadays guard real estate buyers with options to back out, and with good reason. This seemingly impulsive (buying)behavior is challanging traditional research methods; how to properly measure and use this behaviour?

90% of our desicion process is intuitive

In the field of psychology, Daniel Kahnemans work earned him a Nobel Prize in economics, and his book about his collective research now firmly rests on many marketers night stand. Kahneman categorizes human behaviour as controlled by System 1 and System 2. Where System 1 is responsible for the majority of our dayly desicions and relies on intuition and emotion. The first step of any purchase, even of a house, is made by this system. System 2 is the thinking, rational system but is controlled by System 1.


Answering questionnaires requires us to primarily use System 2 and therefore misses any significant measure of our intuitive and emotional (System 1) decision making. Using System 2 requires a considerable effort and energy, and hence humans have developed strategies to avoid unnecessary use of energy. To survive we have learned to be lazy. The title of this article is a quote from Daniel Kahneman and explains this very well. We can do it, but will as much as possible avoid it. This is one of the reasons many respondents bail out before finishing long questionnaires.

So how to measure our intuitive System 1?

The market research industry has now reached a tipping point. And Implicit testing is regenerating the research into desicion making, branding and emotions. Techniques such as the scientific method of Implicit Association Testing (IAT) can visualize sub-conscious attitudes and underlying emotions that influence brand preference and purchase decisions.

Read more about our IAT techniques here and keep an eye open for our upcoming masterclass about Implicit Methods later this spring.


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Written by Martin Leeflang (CEO, Communication Analytics) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA