The trouble with pre-testing

Dr Ali Goode

Studies show that pre-testing favours ads that are more consciously recalled by our explicit memory. Yet it is our intuitive implicit memory that is more likely to react to persuasion.

Our brain is the most complex thing we will ever know about, yet despite its astonishing complexity, our brains are actually rather lazy, or to put it another way, they are designed to expend as little energy as possible.

Our brains tend towards avoiding having to think and reason. As the father of behavioural economics, Daniel Kahneman, says: "Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats." We can think but our brains very much prefer not to. So, rather than thinking, we evolved mental shortcuts or heuristics that allow us to make decisions quickly and effectively. We experience these as the flow of intuitions and gut feelings, informing us how to respond to what goes on around us. We usually don't think our way to a decision, we feel our way to most of the decisions we make.