We all know that what people say, does not always correspond with what they actually do. This phenomenon is also referred to as the ‘say-do gap’ and is especially visible in topics where people are prone to maintain a positive image by giving socially desirable responses. This often explains deviating election-poll results, or why stats are off for sensitive topics such as racism, substance use, smoking, or bankruptcies. Wanting to understand human behavior, it is thus not enough to focus on what people ‘think’ and ‘feel’; what they ‘do’ is another vital part of the research mix.
Sarah Van Oerle
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Neuroscientists have found that if the brain’s emotions network is damaged, people would lose their ability not only to laugh or cry, but also to make decisions. Likewise, when making a decision, one does not say ‘What do I think about this’, but rather ‘How do I feel about this’. Clearly, emotions are key drivers of decision making.
This strong impact of emotions on behavior also has implications for marketing research, where ‘feel’ activities should be an integral part of the research mix.
For a long time, the dominant belief among philosophers, scientists and economists was that humans – and their decision making – are driven predominantly by ratio, and this was no different in marketing research. While we now understand that human behavior is complex and requires a multi-dimensional approach, ‘think’ activities are still an important part of the research mix – they allow to grasp the perceptions, opinions and attitudes people can easily express.