Imagine that you are out in a grocery store with your shopping list of healthy foods, with the aim of losing a few pounds. Explicitly knowing this, have you ever wondered how all of a sudden you’ve ended up browsing the candy or chocolate aisle? After all, it’s not a very rational thing to do… There’s an explanation for all this, recent advances within the field of decision neuroscience have allowed for an improved understanding of how we as individuals (and as consumers) make decisions.

While traditional economic theorists are still quite sceptical —not being too happy with anything that questions their foundations of rationality— these new advances seem to suggest that we as humans do not purely rely on conscious deliberation.

Subliminal triggering

Many non-conscious factors also contribute to and influence our choices or way of thinking; such as subliminal triggers in the environment or priming. While not the most academic, Michael Shermer provides some solid evidence in this example from his TED talk:

Non-tangible metrics

So how do we avoid non-conscious decision influence? Since decision-making includes non-conscious elements— it is unlikely that consumers can accurately account for them if a company was to walk up to them and ask. Methods used widely within Neuromarketing for example bring a possibility to measure the metrics that could otherwise not be accessed by simply asking people due to lack of introspective access.

To really get an understanding of what is happening in the brain, we need to supplement traditional methods such as surveys and questionnaires with someneuroscience research tools.

Using technologies such as eye-tracking, facial expression analysis, EEG among others allow for the possibility to better understand attention, arousal and cognitive workload.