Expanding Our Collaborative Direction: Integrating System 1 + 2 Methods

We all know that this industry of ours operates heavily based on “bucketing” by methodology.

When we meet people at an industry event, the most common question asked places you in a “bucket” by category…“What type of firm are you?”  A typical reply is, “we are a full service custom market research firm.” To which our new connection often has follow-up questions… “Do you do more qual or quant?” or “Do you do this specific method,” etc.…

If our industry truly embraced the term full-service, these qualifying questions wouldn’t be needed.

But, the questions are appropriate, because the term “full-service” is too often used to “hedge ones bets”… to deflect the previous questions and avoid being dropped from consideration.


Decision Focus Moves Beyond “Bucketing”

At MMR, we don’t focus on method but rather on the “decision” – what business decision does our client need us to inform? To be a TRUE full service partner, we must be agnostic, operating as a research concierge with the ability and competency to consider virtually all relevant tools and approaches available before choosing the BEST approach (method, cost, etc.) for a project based on the business context of the specific project.  But to truly deserve this label requires us to stay on top of new developments in the industry and be able to quickly adapt and integrate methodologies that offer new learnings.

One of the more rapidly developing NEW areas over the past decade that we’ve been watching and exploring has been in System 1 (non-conscious response) methodologies.  Beginning with the ultimately flawed (or over-sold) Neuro approaches that promised to unlock the brain, these methods have often been sold as “replacements” to System 2 (conscious-response) approaches which are deemed “inherently flawed” (despite long years of effective use).

As part of our commitment to providing a true Full-Spectrum toolkit for our clients, MMR has been actively exploring approaches in the System 1 space and how they integrate with established System 2 approaches.  To do this, we have:

 – formed partnerships to ensure a one-stop-shop experience with expert guidance

– coordinated with our clients to explore and pilot some of these approaches collaboratively

Based on learnings to date, we now believe that, when appropriately applied, the use of System 1 + 2 can provide better direction to guide business decisions and help us improve actionable recommendations.  As a result, we are taking steps to apply such an integrated approach.


Comparing System 1 & System 2 methods

The classic delineation between the two methods aligns with the two different ways of thinking, based on how we make decisions:

System 2 (Conscious): this is what we’re all used to. This category of decisions is highly rational. It assumes that choices are methodical, deliberate, effortful, explicit and calculated.  Research in this mode directly asks people questions about what they will do or have done and why.

System 1 (Non-conscious) thinking operates below conscious awareness; decisions in this mode are spontaneous, fast, effortless, implicit and intuitive. System 1 methods draw upon the fields of neuroscience, behavioral economics and psychology. Research questions are designed to reveal thoughts, feelings and motives that we are not consciously aware of, yet have profound effects on judgment and decision making.


When to consider System 1 + 2 integration

As with all the tools of our trade, it’s important to realize that neither form of measurement is necessarily superior.

System 1 and System 2 applications can be effectively used independently or in combination. However, the real power is in selectively combining these two dimensions for appropriate applications.

Key situations when System 1+2 is often applicable or should be considered:

There is a strong emotional component to the business decision/question at hand. Note that this occurs more often than you might think as emotions play a role in nearly all consumer decisions.

There is an answer you haven’t been able to reach through System 2 alone. When the results come back the same each time, and the gold nuggets just aren’t showing up…maybe it’s time for a new mining design.

If there is an exploratory component to the project. System 1 is great at looking under rocks and shaping the direction for follow up System 2 research.


Incorporating System 1 + 2 Applications

To ensure we provide a true full-spectrum tool-kit, our team began vetting and piloting System 1 approaches in 2015. We have now formed a partnership with System 1 thought leaders Merchant Mechanics, who are pioneers and leaders in the non-conscious research space and experts in System 1+2 integration.

As part of our continuing effort to provide best-in-class service to our clients, our team will now include consideration of System 1+2 methods as part of our review of all business problems we are asked to address.

Our goal is always to select the best tool for the job, and as your trusted partner we will be the first to tell you when System 1 (non-conscious) DOESN’T apply, as well as when it does.


Want to learn more? Schedule an MMR Seminar Series discussion for your team.

About Merchant Mechanics

Merchant Mechanics is an award-winning research firm specializing in shopper behavior, consumer neuroscience and behavioral economics. With extensive expertise in the Cognitive, Behavioral and Affective Neurosciences, we service our clients, including many in the Fortune 100, in consumer insights, marketing and advertising research. Since 2000, Merchant Mechanics has delivered best-in-class market research, helping our clients gain objective, actionable insights by untangling the intricacies of consumer behavior and decision making.