What Market Research can learn from Spock

Last night, I finally went to see Star Trek Into Darkness. Please understand that I am absolutely not a ‘trekkie’, but having been persuaded to watch the 2009 instalment and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it, I was somewhat excited at seeing Into Darkness (and let’s be honest, Benedict Cumberbatch). I thought it was brilliant, I haven’t enjoyed a film that much for ages, but for me the film was all about one character – Spock.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character, Spock is from the planet Vulcan and is half human, half alien. As I said, I’m not a ‘trekkie’ so I’m not going to get into the history of Vulcans but what I do know is a) he’s the guy with pointy ears and b) he has a continuous internal battle over whether he should be governed by logic or emotion.

As everyone in the research industry is now well aware, there is a lot of talk about behavioural economics and the conflict between System 1 and System 2 i.e. emotional Vs. rational thought. It’s also not breaking news that in the main humans are far more likely to be governed by system 1 when it comes to making decisions.

Of course Spock is a fictional character, but why I found him unique was because despite being capable of both types of thought, from the outset it’s clear he is governed more by rationality than his emotions, in fact in many respects he sees the human, emotional side of himself as a weakness.

This works out fine for a while, the problem is emotional thought keeps creeping back in, and as the film progresses it becomes harder for Spock to ignore his emotions when making decisions. There is one particular moment in the film where Spock is presented with a situation that induces an instant emotional reaction. Despite all his programming to rely on logical or rational decision making, when he has no time to process something, system 1 reactions prevail. .

It appears Daniel Kahnemann’s work is as relevant thousands of years in the future as it is today.

So what can market research learn from Spock? Even half humans who are programmed to make rational decisions, end up being driven by emotion. Contrary to what Spock thinks, the emotion itself is by no means a sign of weakness – the limitation comes in his continuous battle to reject emotion in favour of logic.

Consumers will face the same battle if you expect system 1 responses from a research environment geared up for system 2.

Submitted by Rachel Garrett from The Mix – a qualitative research agency with a difference. We believe in insight with imagination http://mixresearch.co.uk/

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