Lessons from Neuromarketing, the science of human decisions

Neuromarketing has taught us that the decisions we make are not always completely within our control. It is a fact that influences from outside, mostly invisible’, are shaping our decisions without our realisation. Something very subtle can change our behaviour dramatically.

To get a better in-depth understanding into what this means it is interesting to understand the basics of how the human brain is stimulated.

The human brain has three layers: the new brain, the middle brain and the old brain. The new brain thinks, the middle brain feels and the old brain decides. The old brain analyses the information gained from the other two brains and is responsible for making decisions. The old brain (also known as Reptilian brain) is the most ancient part of the human brain and is therefore mostly concerned with survival; this brain can, therefore, be considered as highly self-centred.


To stimulate the old brain, one of the following six stimuli need to be considered implementing:

1. Self-centred. As the old brain is the organ of survival and only focused on its own survival, the message that needs to be received by the customer has to be acceptable to a selfish organ. This means that the customers need to feel that the company is on their side, caring about their problems. In practical terms, this means that language about the company itself needs to be avoided, and should instead solely be focused on the customers and how they can benefit.

2. Contrast. Without contrast, the old brain will not be triggered and is therefore not able to make a decision. This means that the old brain will seek for a clear contrast in order to be able to make an instant decision and avoid confusion that only results in a delayed decision. Getting the old brains attention can be done by creating contrast and avoid things as neutral statements that only dull the contrast.

3. Tangible. As the old brain is wired to avoid the extra time and energy involved in thinking, it, therefore, prefers tangible input. It will be triggered quicker by easily grasped words like ‘’More money’’, instead of ‘’Maximizing ROI’’.

4. First and last. The old brain is only triggered by a change of state. This means that at the beginning and the end of interaction the old brain will be more alert. Overall, if nothing much changes in the type of content, the brain will not be triggered anymore and thus stop paying attention to it. Novelty is the key. Novelty is the quality of being new, original or unusual and promotes information transmission. It seems that our mind gravitates towards novelty. Not only is our attention being captured by a novel experience, but it also appears to be an essential need of the mind. Besides this, novel also means unknown, and what is unknown demands the attention of our brain. Once the new thing is known and understood, we search for another unknown to get to know.

5. Visuals. As the optical nerve is around 25 times faster than the auditory nerve and it is connected directly in the old brain, images are perceived quicker than text. It is therefore strongly recommended to always use images next to the text to better communicate the key messages.

6. Emotion. The information needs to reach the old brain through a system that filters the information, this is known as the Reticular system. In order for information to be filtered through this system, it needs to have emotional stimuli.

Now that we know what stimulates the human brain and how we can change the information so it reaches its right destination within the brain, it is interesting to apply this knowledge into practice. This will be the subject of my next blog. Stay tuned.

Guest blog by Lincy Hoetink
Originally posted on linkedin.com

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