Marco Baldocchi Group
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Implicit Reaction Time, know what people think of your brand

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Implicit Reaction Time applied to Neuromarketing

In this article I want to talk about Implicit Reaction Time testing (IRT), a particular family of tests used by experts in Neuromarketing to explore the implicit attitudes of consumers.

These tests, which are based on scientific psychological literature, are able to capture people’s immediate, instinctive or unconscious reactions to brands, advertising campaigns, new products, packaging design, etc..

In particular, Implicit Reaction Time tests give the opportunity to study consumers at a deep emotional level and to predict their buying behavior, satisfaction and liking more accurately than in the past.

Therefore, IRT tests are bound to become a key part of market research.

Unconscious influences such as emotions, memory, perception and decision-making shape our behavior and often have an impact on the choices we make.

But let’s look at this technique in more detail.

Kahneman's fast and slow thinking theory

Implicit Reaction Time have been applied for more than 20 years and in various fields of research.

In particular, in the 1970s psychologists realized the importance of this method as they provided the means to study subconscious brain processes and divide them from conscious thoughts or decisions.

Implicit Reaction Time tests are based on the theory of Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli psychologist, who thought that thinking works through two paths with different characteristics:

System 1: fast, subconscious, reacts automatically and stores information associatively. Thoughts occur before 500-600 ms.

System 2: slow, follows the rules, it is the system of conscious mental  operations. Thought take place after 500-600 ms.

System 1’s thoughts tend to use heuristics (thought shortcuts)  to draw conclusions in an unreliable manner.

It’s by far the most powerful system.

The beliefs and emotions of System 1 are at the origin of the choices made by System 2.

Basically, we react emotionally to a question (System 1).

Subsequently, the reaction of System 1 instructs and creates the response of System 2.

Therefore, the Implicit Reaction Time tests measure the difference in reaction time to the vision of a brand, product, advertising spot, etc..

IRT testings in our Neuromarketing lab

In our Neuromarketing lab, we perform tests to see how consumers associate key attributes with product communication or brands (for example, showing a quick response).

Or if they show an interest but then decide not to go further (slower response).

Testings are done by PC.

On the pc’s monitor appear in sequence stimuli belonging to multiple categories.

The participant must associate the category using the click of two keys to other macro-categories determined initially, which remain on the screen to make the participant keep in mind which key is related to which association.

The higher the response speed, the higher the degree of unconscious adhesion between two categories.

The advantages of Implicit Reaction Time tests

Compared to other Neuromarketing research techniques (such as eye-tracking, eeg, etc.), IRT tests have multiple advantages.

First, they are made to measure only System 1, revealing hidden information that interviews or questionnaires would not be able to reveal.

Below are some other advantages of application:

  • tests are done by pc or other mobile devices
  • there is no need for special tools
  • they can be carried out quickly
  • tests are highly scalable
  • they are not expensive
  • it is possible to collect data on multiple participants who perform the test simultaneously in different parts of the world.
 If you want to know how this technique could be useful 

to your brand or product, contact me by email at:

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