Behavioral Science Series No. 6: Subconscious Drivers of Human Behavior

1. Future projections are not reliable

Our intentions don't always match up to our actual behavior. In other words, we're notoriously bad at predicting what we're gonna do in the future. For example, consider the decision of whether to eat watermelon or ice cream. If you ask someone in the morning which one they will choose later in the day after dinner, people will often say that they'll have the watermelon. But when the time comes and their stomach is growling and that ice cream is looking really good, there's a good chance they're going to decide differently.

2. Memories are skewed

Maybe we're bad at predicting the future, but we can probably rely on what we've done in the past, right? Wrong. We often selectively recall memories that support the decision we've already made. So imagine you're a little bit lactose intolerant, but you really want to eat that ice cream. You're going to selectively remember that one time that you had ice cream and you didn't suffer from a stomach ache rather than maybe the multiple times that you did actually indulge and had a stomach ache and suffered terribly.

3. Change is hard

Which means entrenched habits are difficult to disrupt. If you have ice cream for dessert every night, it's likely that you'll choose that ice cream over a watermelon. Changing a choice requires mental effort, and that's something that our System 1 brain tries to avoid.

4. Choices are based on relative, not absolute, evaluations

We don't judge a product, brand, or service in isolation. We're always thinking about it relative to other products, services or brands out there. And that's how our decisions are made in the real world. For example, if you're trying to choose a healthy dessert and your options are ice cream, chocolate cake or a candy bar. Now, all of a sudden, pared next to these other two choices, that ice cream is looking like it would be the healthiest option.

5. Context matters

If it's a sunny day, maybe you'll want that ice cream. But if it's a rainy day, maybe you’ll want something else.

6. We copy others

We often look to the behaviors of others to help us decide how to act, especially if it's unclear what the best course of action is. So maybe if everyone's eating ice cream, you're probably going to want ice cream too. You're gonna think it's a good idea and you're gonna want to fit in. So you do it.

7. We aren’t good at evaluations

How much we value something will depend on things like which alternatives are available or whether or not we own it. So, that ice cream, for example, if given the option, you’ll probably assign that ice cream you eat regularly a higher price point than ice creams that you don't eat regularly. Subconsciously, even though you know better, you think it has a greater value and it's worth more money simply because you eat it.

Armed with this knowledge about subconscious drivers of human behavior, Fresh Squeezed Ideas has developed a behavioral science practice with tools that give us access to System 1, this intuitive autopilot decision-making system. To learn more about how our methods can help solve your marketing challenges, click here.

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