All Systems Go

In Daniel Kahneman’s book – Thinking Fast & Slow – there’s much written about decision making and how System 1 and System 2 are distinct means of decision making.  We all want to think we’re System 2 – controlled, rational, considered when it comes to problem solving or major life decisions but in reality, there’s nothing wrong with System 1 (Thinking Fast) ways to approach things.  It’s efficient, fast, often unconscious way of thinking.  Both approaches work in conjunction with each other – if we run into trouble with System 1, System 2 will often kick in.

Much of what we do at The Interpreters involves getting other people thinking and answering our questions/problems so we need to take a systematic approach in how we ask the questions we do.  And while the psychology of thinking has always played a role in our industry, there’s no consensus of which system approach is best – often the difference lies in the challenge the brand has.

Thinking about brand awareness, we traditionally measure both Systems as ask people unprompted the brands they can recall and then show a list of brands to gather prompted brand awareness.  While there’s argument that System 1 thinking can bring inherent biases, if a brand is top of mind and from the unconscious mind, surely it has achieved the first step towards usage or consideration.  But for challenger brands, maybe System 2 thinking is the holy grail as the more deliberate consideration might work when competing against the more established brands.

How we design the questionnaires we send needs to recognise the two types of thinking as the longer the questionnaire, the more complex the survey design, the more likely we will be receiving feedback based on System 2 thinking.   Focus groups we run utilise a number of projective techniques to minimise System 2 thinking.

It applies to our clients as well.  Running focus groups recently, we had a number of the clients sitting behind the mirror, about to watch and observe their clients for an hour and a half. When these customers walked in, you could see the System 1 thinking kick in; carefully scrutinising what their customers looked like and creating those first impressions.  It was therefore our job to get them to System 2 – look beyond their appearance and that first impression, and uncover who these customers are and the role that the brand plays in their lives

We think (utilising our System 2 way of thinking) that in our industry there’s no one preference but just needs to be the recognition that the people we speak to, listen to, report on – answer our questions both slow and fast – and there’s nothing wrong with that.


By Paul Dixon

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