Wednesday, February 13, 2008
It’s official: we make decisions influenced by emotion, not reason. Grab your customers by the emotions, so to speak, and you’re half-way there.
How do I know this? From watching “Horizon” on the BBC. In their programme “How To Make Better Decisions” the Horizon team conducted a number of experiments aimed at finding out why we do the things we do.
The two experiments that made me sit up and start to make notes were to do with brain electricity and post-decision rationalisation. This is what they did for the first one:
- Volunteers were hooked up to machines measuring their brain activity, then asked to make simple yes/no decisions. Without exception, every volunteer brain showed increased amygdala (sounds like a Star Wars character) response at the moment decisions were made. The amygdala is recognised as the part of the brain that manages emotions.
- In a much smaller number of cases, some volunteers also displayed frontal lobe activity at the moment of decision. Frontal lobes are thought to govern reason and logic — the bits that make humans smarter than apes, you could say.
In other words, we make decisions based on what we feel, not what we think. Isn’t that a useful fact to know?
Here’s how they measured post-decision rationalisation:
- Volunteers were shown sets of cards showing two relatively similar-looking faces at a time and asked to say which face they found more attractive. After they chose, they were passed the card they thought they’d chosen. In fact, the card they received was the one they’d just rejected. The testers had switched cards on them.
- They then flipped the card over to look at the face and were asked to describe exactly why they’d chosen that face. Remember, this was the face they hadn’t chosen.
- Without exception, the volunteers not only failed to notice the switch, they all successfully came up with rationalisations as to why they’d chosen that face — the face they hadn’t originally chosen! “I thought he had kind eyes”, “She’s got a cute smile” — that’s as maybe, but they didn’t think that when they first saw the cards!
What does this tell us? It tells us that first we decide, then we find reasons to justify our decisions. Once it’s too late to do anything about it, in other words. And it’s true! I’m always buying stuff online, then checking out review sites to see what people think. And if I’m objective, I know that I filter out the negative stuff and focus on reasons to justify my decision. We all do!
What does this mean? It means that when we want to do business successfully, we have to think about our target customers as human beings who have feelings. A certain amount of factual detail on, say, a website is fine, but we have to focus most importantly on grabbing our readers by their emotional lapels and giving them a good shake!
If you remember just one thing from this article, remember this:
Facts Tell, Stories Sell.
Have a look at Horizon for yourself by watching some of the show’s highlights here. Pretty good, eh?