Purchase Decisions in a Busy, Busy World: A Behavioural Science Perspective

The content of our memories and the ease with which these memories come to mind (salience) serve as heuristics that influence the choices we make.

The author(s)

  • Colin Ho Innovation and Market Strategy & Understanding, US
  • Namika Sagara Behavioural Science Center, Ipsos in the US
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supermarketAlthough brand salience is important, it is not the only factor that determines the final choice for a brand. As much as we would like our decisions to be thoughtful and fully considered, the large amount of information, lack of time and our limited mental capacity make it difficult to do so.

If you have ever read Richard Scarry’s “Busy, Busy World” or “Busytown” to your kids, you may remember the colorful and delightful illustrations. Scarry’s illustrations show human-like animal characters bustling about, preoccupied and engrossed in their social and occupational roles. It is an apt metaphor for modern life. Little did the author know that life would become even more hectic some fifty years later. Since the publication of “Busy, Busy World” in 1965, we are now tied to work 24/7, have access to more information and choices than ever before, and are constantly barraged by digital advertising.

It is within such a world that consumers must make decisions. As much as we would like our decisions to be thoughtful and fully considered, the large amount of information, lack of time and our limited mental capacity make it difficult to do so. To consider all the available information would not be practical or possible. Instead, we base our decisions on singular pieces of information (i.e., simple rules of thumb or heuristics), allowing us to quickly decide and move on to the next task (e.g., Cialdini, 2007).

While our description of rapid versus more effortful choice mirrors the System 1 and System 2 thinking proposed by Kahneman (2011), we focus specifically on brand perceptions and decisions that would rely more on System 1 like processes. Our framework explains how consumers make brand choices when they do not have the mental capacity and/or motivation to engage in more deliberate thinking. Such situations typically include low involvement categories (e.g., fast moving consumer goods) or more generally, situations where a wrong decision is inconsequential (e.g., monetarily or psychologically). The key idea of the framework is simple: The content of our memories and the ease with which these memories come to mind (salience) serve as heuristics that influence the choices we make.

The author(s)

  • Colin Ho Innovation and Market Strategy & Understanding, US
  • Namika Sagara Behavioural Science Center, Ipsos in the US

Consumer & Shopper