The Benefits of Implicit Testing

BY: DARREN BRIDGER
Published on: December 7 2022

Implicit testing is a powerful tool for understanding how your customers think and, more importantly, feel. It can uncover hidden motivations that they are unwilling to admit to, and does so without the biases and noise inherent in more traditional questionnaires. It measures consumers’ intuitive, automatic gut responses before their rational mind has a chance to ‘kick in’ and provide its own - often misleading or distorting - description of how the person is responding. The tests are quick and scalable for CloudArmy to run. 


There are a number of benefits to Implicit testing that make it valuable for market research. 


1.It has an in-built quality-control


Being able to run research online has obvious benefits, access to almost any market in the world, and the ability to get answers quickly. However, many researchers are concerned about the quality of some types of online research, and are finding it harder to engage people online to take part in research. In Implicit response tests, participants are obliged to focus and pay attention. They can't simply randomly or absent-mindedly click their way through a test in the way that they might be tempted to with a more traditional multiple choice survey, a phenomenon known as straight lining whereby people just click their way straight down multiple choice options, without making the proper effort to consider them. The Implicit sorting tasks have correct and incorrect answers. Therefore, a person wouldn't be able to proceed through the tests, pressing their keys randomly. This represents an important quality control mechanism, and guarantee of attention and engagement. 

2.It measures important non-conscious attitudes that drive our behavior


Most of our daily behaviour and decision making is non conscious. It's impossible to prove exactly what percentage of our decisions are driven by unconscious minds. But as an example, in a BBC documentary, a selection of neuroscientists were given a piece of paper and asked to draw, what proportion of the page would represent the proportion of our brains that are conscious. They all estimated that only a small minority of the page or our brain was conscious. One metaphor that cognitive scientists often use for our non conscious minds is that of an iceberg: the majority of which is hidden below the waterline with only a small top visible. Whether it be driving a car, talking, or shopping in the supermarket, or moment by moment behaviour is mostly outside of our conscious awareness on autopilot using a research measure that captures non conscious brain responses, like Implicit response measures is therefore vital. If you aren't capturing people's non conscious reactions, you're missing out on the main part of mental activity. 


One problem was simply asking people why they make the choices they do is that due to so much of our behaviour being unconscious, we often don't know why we choose the things we do. Psychologists call this phenomenon, choice blindness. The problem is made worse by the tendency for people to rather than simply say, sorry, I don't know why I chose this brand or product to instead construct a plausible sounding explanation. Psychologists call this confabulation as an example of this effect. In one study, experimenters set up a stand in a shop, offering tasting samples of jam. Once people had told them which jam they liked the most. The experimenters played a trick and offered them a second taste, but actually gave them a different jam. Not only did most people not notice that the jam was different, but they were still willing to offer an explanation of why it was their favourite. The same results were found when asking people to choose a tea whose taste they liked the most. And to select which face they found most attractive from a series of photos with Implicit response measures. With Implicit research we aren't prey to such misdirecting answers.


3.Implicit measures can quantify our emotional and irrational reactions


In everyday life we are used to expressing whether we like something or not, but we aren't used to specifically quantifying our responses to things asking people to rate or rank their responses to things on scales is not a natural task for most people, and they may struggle to do so accurately. In contrast, Implicit response gives us quantified measures that people's emotional reactions and associations as they are quantified. They are amenable to comparison across groups or over time, and we can do statistics on them. When it comes to certain subjects, for example, those relating to money, personal hygiene, alcohol consumption, or areas of behaviour in which we might behave in a biassed or prejudiced manner, we may not always be entirely truthful when answering survey questions. We may even try to hide from ourselves certain facets of our behaviour in order to feel better about ourselves, and we may try to create an idealised impression of ourselves to others. Precisely timed, rapid Implicit response measures, in contrast, are not controllable in this way, and can be trusted in these types of situations to provide a more truthful response. 

Many of us are raised in cultures that prize rationality and logic we don't like to think about decisions being made on the basis of apparently arbitrary or subjective things like design. So when presented with a range of different new creative options, such as new packaging designs for the same product, many of us will be uncomfortable admitting even to ourselves, that we might be more likely to buy a product simply because it is packaged more attractively, hence, in conscious surveys. It can be hard to get a read on which of several designs or creative options people actually prefer. 


The responses measured by Implicit tests have been shown to only overlap a bit around 20% In many cases with conscious responses, like those from surveys. This means that by adding in Implicit measures to your programme of research, you're adding in fresh new information. If you're looking for fresh perspectives and insights, this is obviously valuable.


Implicit testing has many benefits above simply asking consumers questions. We can test many types of content with Implicit tests, including images, brands, messaging and sounds/music. To find out more please contact us.