Measuring the unconscious through implicit techniques is in-vogue right now, and I’ll admit that I’ve been a huge fan of them for a couple decades, ever since I got to use a tachistoscope in university. Implicit techniques are based on the premise that people’s feelings, opinions, and attitudes are often not accessible to basic awareness. You’re probably most familiar with this in terms of people not recognizing or admitting that they are sexist, racist, homophobic, or xenophobic. Or, at least, the extent to which they are —ist or —ic.
Implicit techniques often entail having people do word or image comparisons at super-high speeds. For instance, you might ask people to assign one set of 100 words (e.g., adventurous, bewildered, debonair, heroic, birthday balloons, seaside, pyramids) to a couple of brands in under a minute. A choice must be made for every single word. The reasoning behind this technique is that decisions are made too quickly for logical thought to occur. Rather, gut feelings, the unconscious mind, the reptilian brain, are the only processes being accessed.
But what about this scenario?
I KNOW I am sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. I was raised in that culture and it is embedded in me. Growing up, I saw sexism and racism all over the media and, today, I see homophobia and xenophobia all over media. At this point in my life, it would be massively hard to make that part of me disappear. Fortunately, what I can do, and what I have done, is to recognize that part of me so damn fast that it has miniscule effects on my actions. I know these biases exist in every socialized human being (ah, the innocence of babies who haven’t yet been taught to be biased!) and I actively tell myself that those feelings are wrong. I’ve actively moved the treatment of those thoughts and feelings from the unconscious to the conscious.
Which brings me to my main point. It doesn’t make sense to always and only measure the unconscious. Why? Because my actions will demonstrate a completely different story than my unconscious brain will reveal. Implicit testing may suggest that I wouldn’t be amenable to a person, brand, service, or company, but then, low and behold, there I am endorsing, using, and buying it. My biased brain is contradicting the scientifically developed prediction algorithm that says I will not open my wallet.
I hope you’ll take a couple of lessons from this.
- Never forgo implicit techniques for explicit techniques. Both are always mandatory or you will have gaps in your understandings and treatments. You need to know what biases and conscious decisions relate to your brand.
- Accept that human beings, including you, have negative biases. And that’s not a bad thing. The only bad thing is being unable to recognize and being unwilling to accept those biases.