The unconscious mind, by definition, is not accessible to conscious introspection. Therefore, your customers are not aware of its influence on their behaviour. So, if the unconscious mind is not passing the information to the conscious level, how to master it consciously?
Indeed, it is exceedingly difficult. One of the most startling examples of the very limited capacity of the conscious mind is a selective attention test by Simons and Chabris (the so-called “Invisible Gorilla” experiment). In the test people are asked to watch a video and closely follow designated players passing a basketball to each other and count the total number of passes. In the middle of the video a gorilla walks calmly among the players, stops and pounds its chest, then walks away. After presenting the video researchers asked people how many passes occurred and whether they had seen the gorilla. Astonishingly over half of the people had not seen the gorilla! That’s because the high cognitive load (attention) strained the limited capacity of the conscious mind and there was no room for other information.
In another example, a group of scientists tested it in an Australian wine store and noticed that when the music they played in the store was French, around 2/3 of the bottles customers purchased were from France. And when the music was changed to German, over 50% of the bottles bought were, well, from Germany. Afterwards the customers were asked why they ended-up with the bottle of their choose, and only 2% of the customers mentioned the influence of the music on their own purchase choice. More interestingly, when the experiment was explained to them and the influence of the music on purchases made clear, still almost 9 out of 10 of those customers were convinced that the music had nothing to do with their choice. Even after they were told about sales figures. That is understandable because the conscious level, first, was probably not aware of the music in the first place, and second, if it was, it did not have enough information to establish the causality between the music and the purchase. But interviewing these customers would have produced totally different results. Asking why they bought the bottle they did would have given reasons for their decisions not related to the main reason, music.
Indeed, in a highly prestigious scientific journal researchers reported how little people may know about their own behavior, and even less about the reasons behind it. The researcher in the study held pictures of two different women in his hands and asked a test subject on the other side of the table to pick the picture that he found preferable. When the subject chose a picture, the researcher placed the pictures face down on the table, took (undetected) a copy of the other woman’s picture from his sleeve, and gave that picture (i.e. wrong picture) to the subject. Unbelievably, almost 2/3 of the subjects didn’t notice that the picture wasn’t the one they chose a few seconds earlier. Although astonishing enough, that was not the point of the study. What is even more unbelievable is the fact that when asked, every single person gave undisputed reasons why they chose the picture they had in their hand, although that was not the picture they actually chose! They didn’t hesitate at all. The conscious mind made up the reason on the fly because it was totally unaware of the actual reasons for the behavior.
This phenomenon has been replicated over and over again. In yet another example, researchers took a table and went to a local supermarket. In the supermarket, they asked passing customers to taste two different flavors of tee and jam, and to pick their favorite. Instantly after the customer gave their preference, researchers gave them a sample opposite to their preferred flavor, and asked the customer to explain why they preferred this particular flavor. Again, an astonishing 2/3 of the subjects did not notice the change in flavor! Regardless of the change, customers were fully able to give an explanation for their preference, although it was not their initial pick. So, this finding has to be because the flavors were so similar, right? Wrong, they were really different. Flavors were cinnamon-apple vs. grapefruit and mango vs. anise.
Indeed, people are surprisingly unaware of reasons for their behavior. Another studies have found that people who are asked to analyze reasons for their choices usually end up at different alternatives than people who are just asked to choose and leave with the chosen item. So basically interviewing people may give information about choices customers would NOT make in a real situation in the first place and do NOT have anything to do with a real behavior.
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