Consumer Behaviour for Startups - Understanding Cognition

You want answers, don’t you? Great, because I’m pretty sure you’ve landed here to try and get a better understanding of your customers. Today I’ll be taking you through the Cognitive approach to psychology, before we take a deep-dive into behavioural psychology.

Jennifer Evans
Jennifer Evans

You want answers, don’t you? Great, because I’m pretty sure you’ve landed here to try and get a better understanding of your customers. Today I’ll be taking you through the Cognitive approach to psychology, before we take a deep-dive into behavioural psychology.

The Cognitive approach is one of the few main starting points to understand what your potential, and current customers are thinking about when visiting your website, either consciously or unconsciously. Cognition is the mental process of understanding knowledge and behaviour exhibited to one's eyes before them.

There are 6 main understandings of the cognitive approach to the scientific learning of the human mind and its functions.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Computer models

  • Inferences

  • Schema

  • Theoretical models

  • Internal mental processes

Each of these maps out the basics of cognition and understanding, as marketing specialists learn how to train their eye for certain aspects and characteristics that are exhibited by their customer base.

What is Cognitive Neuroscience?

The Cognitive Approach and Cognitive Neuroscience stems from some of the first psychologists to appear in history, with a footprint made for the rest of society to change and adapt to their current environment.

Cognitive Neuroscience was adapted to Wilhem Wundt’s theory of Introspection. Ulric Neisser, who formed the theory of Cognitive Neuroscience - which was later evaluated and continued by another psychologist - believed that there was a different way to read the human brain and to understand the ways of thinking. He believed that although psychology had to be formalised by science, it had to take in both computer and theoretical models.

Inferences and Schema

What your customers will (or won’t) memorise can be explained as Inferences and Schema. Let’s take a deep dive into the process of someone storing, learning and understanding new information. To get a better understanding of what your customers memorise, we have to look at Inferences and Schema.

Inferences are one of the stages of understanding physical stimuli around yourself. They are conclusions reached by reasoning and based upon evidence found - often supported by a scientific experiment but interpreted in a psychological way. Next comes Schema which is often explained as a method of storing knowledge and past events inside the brain. This can be compared to little packages of information stored in a file on your computer.

Internal Mental Processes (IMP’s)

To understand how your customers memorise information we have to explore Internal Mental Processes. IMPs are the theories people managed to gauge using scientific evidence to make them valid and accepted many years ago, within a time of prejudice and discrimination - but overall, the human race brought a new age to the times and opened the world's perception to the difference between the brain and mind.

Although the brain can be explained scientifically, we have to take onboard that science does not accept emotions as a term of reasoning. This is where psychology has been developed and made its way into the modern era in our quest to understand all the different functions of the human brain.

Computer and Theoretical Models

Now that we know more about how a consumer processes and stores information, let's look at how we can explain results in terms of using models. Both computer and theoretical models have been the medium to balance the equation between social science and traditional science.

Understanding consumer behavior using computer and theoretical models

At this stage your customer has exhibited many behaviours and it’s time to plan those out into a model. In this case a theoretical model, on the other hand computer models are used when numerical data is involved. A theoretical model is used to map out all the different responses you get to a marketing decision, like a questionnaire about how the customer felt when visiting your website. This questionnaire has 10 questions with 10 interesting responses from this one customer. This customer is unique and you want to understand them in a broader way.

Firstly you list the responses with answers such as numbers that correspond to a level of satisfaction on a ‘likert scale’ that you presented in the questionnaire. Then you start linking the different answers all together and divulge into why they each have a connection.

Let's take Emma, your new customer. Her level of satisfaction from your customer support service is reflected in her consumer behaviour.

Emma gives a response to a particular question with the satisfaction level of moderate. It’s obvious that she wasn’t overly satisfied with the help she received from customer support, but she didn’t feel like she didn’t get any help at all. Your next task is to understand why she made that decision and why it may have influenced her decision to respond with the same answer on following questions. You conclude that she didn’t want to, either agitate or upset you (as the marketing team) or maybe she didn’t know how to answer the question because she didn’t understand what it was asking her.

How do you analyse behaviour to survey results?

You come away thinking that Emma didn’t answer some of your questions truthfully because they were too complex, and you write your conclusion between all of the items in your model. From this point onwards you extract those responses and look into the questions that correlate with them. Further investigation is needed, so you decide (as the market researcher) to see if any of your other respondents may have come across the same issue.

All in all you can use theoretical models to understand a vast quantity of answers and look at them in a bigger picture. Computer models work in a similar fashion, but by using a computer or laptop to evaluate more behaviours and emotions that can be expressed by your customer base - truly looking into the specifics and eliminating them one by one until you find a suitable answer.

Cognitive psychology helps others understand even the faintest of traits in order to explain behaviour, including emotions that may be exhibited and thought processes that may occur. No longer do you or your customers have to live in the dark wondering what’s really going on. The customer can finally be at peace with understanding what is being asked of them, as well as you (the marketer) who can understand why and how your customer may feel and behave in the way(s) that they do in response to your requests.

Consumer behavior - understanding when they convert into a paying customer

Looking for more? Keep an eye out for the next post on famous psychologists like B.F. Skinner with the theory of Operant Conditioning and Ivan Pavlov - who came up with the explanation of Classical Conditioning in which I will explain in terms of market research and how you subconsciously can keep your customers on the right track.