The ABC and D of Human Behaviour (Consumer Understanding #13)

Mar 22 2011

Over the past two weeks we have learnt 12 key insights into what makes us who we are, based on the latest understanding from neuroscience, behavioural economics, psychology, biology and the social sciences.  They can be summarised in three (or perhaps four) key themes, but first let’s review the 12 lessons of human behaviour.

The hardware of the brain

Insight #1 - Our brain has evolved over millions of years to guide us towards universal human strategies to defend, acquire, bond and learn and thereby maximise our reproductive success.

Insight #2 - Our brain’s evolution is revealed in it’s modular structure including three key stages of development and the central position of emotional drives at the heart of everything we do, including decision making and learning.

Insight #3 - We make connections through billions of neurons engaged in constant electrical activity, and in order to make an impression in the mind, we must first change the physical structure of the brain.

Insight #4 - 95% or more of our behaviour is controlled by our unconscious brain, through learnt patterns of behaviour which efficiently guide us to our goals while minimising the need for conscious thought.

Insight #5 - Our learnt patterns of behaviour make Homo Economicus a poor model for predicting behaviours which are based on mental shortcuts much more than complex economic models.

Insight #6 - Our most important mental shortcut is to follow other people, and while this sometimes leads us astray, our sociability is overwhelmingly a successful strategy for mutual success.

The software of the mind

Insight #7 - Our senses provide us with a bottom up picture of the world around us, enriching our mind with the emotional trigger of smell, the rhythm of the world, the touch of reality and the sight of friendly faces.

Insight #8 - Our mind integrates these bottom up views into a single world view, by integrating information, making inferences, and managing expectations from the top down.

Insight #9 - The blending of our senses creates common patterns and higher level concepts which are used by our minds to link ideas into a coherent and useful predictive system and are the basis of the richness of metaphors.

Insight #10 - Our memory is fallible, and is strongest when remembering multi-sensory information with personal meaning in the same context as our previous experiences and learning.

Insight #11 - Our mind is based on associative learning and works best with maps and visual images which increase creativity and problem solving skills and help us to find the right trigger for memory.

Insight #12 - Our mind is primarily a system to make us context sensitive, and all our behaviours depend on the people around us, the type of occasion and above all the cultural norms embedded deep in our memory.

The ABC of consumer behaviour

The research business is the business of predicting human behaviour.  We can only fully interpret behaviour if we understand:

A - Affect, the emotional motivations underlying the behaviour

B - Behaviour, the behaviour itself or ‘the job to be done’

C - Context, the situation of the consumer and their cultural and social influences

Only when we understand ABC, can we seek to interpret D, the data of consumer memories and experiences which make up their individual conceptualisation of the world.

In the ABCD of human behaviour, D is only one piece of the puzzle.

If you would like to learn more, please join one of our consumer psychology workshops or contact me at [email protected]

This series of 13 articles were written in collaboration with Scott Lee, Executive Director at Cimigo, who can be contacted at [email protected]

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