Steady State Topography: An Emerging Neuro-Science Technology in Market Research

Understanding how decisions are made is a critical component to the sales process. According to Sheena Lyengar, a professor at Colombia University and known as an “expert on choice,” shared that the average person makes at least 70 decisions daily.

So why does a customer buy?

What makes them decide to buy or not to buy?

Let us first cover the science of it. The brain is a complex and fascinating organ. Due to the complexity, there are many facets of the brain, all of which have unique and vital jobs for our survival and functionality as a living organism. The umbrella term, “the brain,” includes the conscious and subconscious mind, and there are conflicting opinions as to whether decision making occurs at a conscious or subconscious level.

The conscious mind brings you awareness in any moment. It allows you to view and feel emotions about what you are experiencing. The main objective of the sub-conscious mind is your survival. You may know that as fight or flight. The subconscious mind handles all of the physical functions of your body, stores and organizes information, as well as controls your imagination, intuition, habits, and values.

As new and emerging technologies enter the market research landscape, brands are trying to better understand subconscious thoughts and drivers to consumer behavior beyond just the stated conscious thoughts provided through traditional market research.

Market research methods, including focus groups, surveys and one-to-one interviews, on a basic level involve asking questions, gaining a response and analyzing those responses to gain insight about an ideal consumer’s needs, preferences, opinions, and/or experiences. With evidence-based research, decision-making ultimately happens at the subconscious level. It is important to begin to look at consumer behavior from a neurological vantage point.

Market research tends to focus on extracting conscious thoughts by asking questions through a survey, focus group or one-to-one interview. For example, a moderator might ask a market research participant, “Why did you purchase clothes last month?” The participant’s answer might reveal surface level responses, such as cost, color or sale, but some of the best moderators push participants to dive deep into the buying process and consumer behavior to extract more sub-conscious and emotional insight around their decision making.

Humans are emotional beings and the decision making process is partially guided by emotions. Digging deeper can reveal the emotional component, possibly how they felt that day, the smell in the store, how they felt seeing themselves in the dressing room mirror with the item on, or how the item reminded them of a childhood memory.


Learning About Decisions on a Subconscious Level

Dr. Richard Silberstein is a professor of neuroscience at the Brain Sciences Institute and the founder of Steady State Topography (SST), a sophisticated neuro-tool that uses brain imagery to measure marketing-stimulus on a subconscious level. Electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure brain activity.

Research has shown that responses change with increased exposure, and SST is the only brain-mapping technology that allows a researcher to get a consumer response to a stimulus of propaganda nature (image, advertisement, question, etc.) the first time. Other brain imagery, such as electroencephalogram (EEG), commonly used in the medical field typically takes multiple readings over a period of time.

The brain-mapping technology empowers the researcher to gain data based on the subconscious of the participant; tapping into the impact of memories stored based on previous experiences, intuition (gut reaction) and consumer habits.

Reliability and Validity

In the field of psychology, reliability and validity are important to consider. Reliability refers to the consistency of the test, meaning the test can be performed repeatedly and yield the same results. Validity dictates if the test measures what the test claims to measure. SST has been proven reliable and uses the largest sample size in the industry. It also is the only neuromarketing technology in the world to have both scientific and commercial validation.

In Summary

Consumer behavior ultimately effects the success or failure of a product or service. There are many market research techniques that have been utilized by market research companies for decades. With changes in the field of marketing and consumer buying habits, coupled with evidence-based research supporting buying decisions occur at a subconscious level, SST creates an opportunity for a deeper, subconscious level of insight to connect ideal consumer to a product or service.

It finally gives market research companies and brands the ability to view the full perspective of a buyer’s journey at the conscious and sub-conscious level. Understanding both sides of this coin is the key to unlocking consumer behavior. Although SST seems very technical and unnatural as it applies to traditional market research, perhaps it is not too far away from being universally adopted by companies with the budget to incorporate.

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