CEST Dual-process theory

Seymour Epstein & Rosemary Pacini

In the 21st century consumers have to cope with an ever increasing information overload. They are reacting to the stimuli in a different manner than they did in the recent past. Brand communication has to adapt itself to this new situation. A useful theory in this respect is Cognitive Experiential Self Theory (CEST). According to this theory, people react to stimuli such as advertising by means of two information-processing systems: 1) a pre-conscious experiential system and 2) a conscious rational system.


The information processing in the experiential system is emotionally driven, responding to the overall context, rather than to isolated elements, which would require analytical thinking. This is a highly efficient automatic system that makes minimal demands on cognitive resources. It is apparent in the ease and speed with which we process pictures and movies, compared to reading texts. Connections are made through associations, whereas the rational system does so through logical considerations.