How to Change Beliefs

How to Change Beliefs

Share this Article

By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist and Jake McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

Recently, Amplified Intelligence did a study that looked at active attention for people consuming video based on platform. The research revealed that Instagram was the platform where people paid the most active attention, while people watching linear TV paid the least amount of active attention to the content. From a cost perspective, this information may sound great to marketers, but don’t get too excited. 

Marketers often fall into the trap of focusing on the key moments when customers are most attentive and invested in their product or service. They tend to focus on their existing customers because they have a recency and familiarity bias toward people they have recently encountered, and they get drawn to moments when customers direct their full attention to their product or their advertisements. In reality, people rarely direct their full attention (i.e. actively attend) to advertisements and marketing materials. Often, they attend to the ad long enough to figure out that they should ignore it, and sometimes their attention turns to thinking of reasons why they don’t need the product or why the product claims might not be true. 

The good news is that reaching customers when they’re fully attentive might not be the most effective approach. There’s value in reaching customers when they are simply passively attending to an ad, because they’re more willing to accept the information without rejecting it. In this circumstance, the information gets easily processed by our more intuitive and implicit memory and attention systems instead of our more rational (and less durable) explicit processing systems. 

The importance of passive attention comes from a study conducted back in the 1960s where the same argument was made under two different conditions. One group paid active attention to the content, while the other group paid passive attention, only hearing audio of the argument in the background as they were shown other content to distract them. Interestingly enough, the group of passive listeners had much stronger changes of opinion than the active listeners. How does that make sense?

The reasons become clear when you understand just how people consume information. When we pay passive attention, we’re taking it in System 1, which doesn’t process the information cognitively, but stores it in long-term memory for us to connect later when it comes time to make a decision. Whereas when we are actively paying attention, we use System 2, at which point we’re thinking about the argument critically and tend to form counter opinions. This means that passive consumption of content can have a stronger effect on changing one’s opinion over a long period of time.

For marketers, it’s important to understand the full complexity of consumer attention and perception. These insights can help you make great advertisements that connect with your audiences. Feel free to give us a call at 833-578-1314 or email us at [email protected] to discuss how we can help with your marketing challenges. In addition, sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch with the latest insights in marketing psychology.