How Consumers Make Decisions

Scientists say we make thousands of decisions per day, some sources say as high as 35,000 per day. A Cornell University study says we make 226 decisions per day on what to eat alone. Yet when we ask someone how many decisions they can remember at the end of a day we typically get a response of 10 to 15.

The reason for this is that we use a part of our brain called the “short term working memory” that helps us focus on tasks. It has a very limited capacity and can hold a memory for about 18 seconds and then dumps it. It’s just a way for us to cope with all of the stimuli our brain gets bombarded with. Otherwise, we would not be able to focus.

Our observations in store reveal that often people can’t recall what they paid for an item when asked immediately afterwards. That’s because the short term memory has already jettisoned it from memory. Much of our shopping behavior is habitual in nature.

If that is the case, then why do many organizations rely solely on memory based question techniques to conduct research?

Traditional market research examines only the consumer’s conscious mind. Focus groups, interviews, surveys and other popular methods depend on the conscious mind that may not remembers what was bought, at what price, where, and why. These conscious techniques are good tools for measuring attitudes and perceptions around a brand or category. To uncover true purchase triggers and to gain insights around how to “nudge” behavior, blending traditional tools with observational science and neuro research provides a more insightful context.

This blending approach requires in-depth expertise around traditional and neuro approaches. Knowing when to use traditional techniques and what neuro tool you should combine your traditional techniques with is a unique expertise that Explorer provides.

To truly measure behavior context is important. We behave differently in different environments. All of Explorer research is conducted in situation to truly measure consumer and shopper behavior. Our team of neuroscientists, sociologists, anthropologists and behaviorists work together triangulating different perspectives to uncover unique insights.

Anne Stephenson
Partner, Explorer Research

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