||This Is Your Brain On Digital
It was Freud who first suggested that our childhood was a precursor to our adult selves. And ever since that landmark theory was proposed, people have been obsessed with the inner-workings of the human mind. How do we formulate our thought processes? How does bias shade our thoughts and actions?
John Furey has spent his career trying to answer such questions. He is CEO and founder of MindTime. His lifetime of work has resulted in MindTime, a model for explaining and predicting the behaviors of everyday people. The theory has been applied to the marketing world, as well as the modern workplace.
Here we ask him what's on his mind at the moment.
iMedia Connection: Psychology and advertising have been bedfellows for a long time. Has that relationship changed as the focus shifted from print to digital?
John Furey: Advertising has always been about the psychology of persuasion and it remains so today -- advertising and marketing are disciplines of psychology to a very great degree. But the digital age has added to advertising an interesting tool from [the] psychologist's toolbox. What has changed with the advent of the digital age is people's ability to study people's behaviors in real time; psychologists observe and identify personality traits; marketers observe behaviors and build trait-based personas.
This allows advertisers to target their message of persuasion in more and more appropriate and effective ways. Today advertising is less about creativity and more about creating stimuli that creates measurable positive response.
The issue remains that 100 data points a person does not make. As in psychology, observed trait-based understandings of people are very limited in their usefulness, but this is set to change with the discovery of phenomenological frameworks which we can use and now understand far more about what makes people tick.
iMedia: Has MindTime done a lot of projects with social media? And if so, how is it applied to social networks like Facebook and Twitter?
Furey: No, we have not done a lot of projects with social media, in fact, we have done none. We would rather license MindTime to people who love to do cool things with it in the social media space; we'll support them with excellence in how we deliver MindTime. We are very excited that there are companies interested in developing MindTime applications for communities such as Facebook and Linked-In. We see them as having terrific potential and very real usefulness to members and publishers alike.
iMedia: The MindTime science speaks of three different mindsets: future thinking, past thinking, and present thinking. Do certain brands and/ or products appeal more to a certain mindset? For instance, do you tell a client that their brand is geared towards past thinkers?
Furey: Very much so, although I believe that most brands try to make themselves acceptable to a broad cross section of Time Styles, but this may or may not be a mistake. The issue is that this "opening up" of the brands connectivity tends to dilute the connectivity with those Time Styles that resonated with the brand early on and became loyal. It is so interesting to build personas for brands using MindTime as it really makes sense of what elements of the brand -- language, visual, behavioral, emotional, social -- are actually resonating with the consumer.
iMedia: Is a mode of thinking more prevalent in certain age groups? For instance, are teenagers more likely to be future thinkers?
Furey: Perhaps, but we have no data to support this view. The question presumes that because a teenager has only lived a certain number of years that their future thinking will likely be stronger than, say, their past thinking. To the extent that they haven't yet "experienced" the quantity of experiences or learned the same amount of material as someone who is, say 65 years old, then it is likely that their past thinking is not as developed yet as it might later be.
However, we must be careful not to confuse future, past, and present thinking with future, past, and present time orientation. The former refers to a pattern of thinking: visionary in the case of future thinking, reflective in the case of past thinking, and organizing in the case of present thinking. The actual content of the future, past, or present is irrelevant for thinking, but not for time orientation.
Thus, children can reflect on what they know or have learned; only the content is limited by the dearth of experiences, or by their reading. However, children and teenagers may indeed be naturally predisposed to reflect carefully on what they know or have experienced prior to taking action on some matter.
iMedia: What's a big factor in a workplace that's both efficient and harmonious?
Furey: I believe that there are a number of well understood factors which lead to a workplace that is both efficient and harmonious.
Here's a few: How well a person understands their role and how well they fit with that role. How well people understand each other and communicate effectively and empathically with each other. There's little doubt that people's character -- basically, are they nice people to be around -- has a lot to do with harmony, as does tolerance. Of course maturity, by that I mean the level of maturity that people operate at, is a big one. Nothing worse than an immature bunch of executives playing with people's lives.
Interestingly, one of the chief factors for individuals' well-being at work is a sense of control over their day to day circumstances and lives. Think of it as self-determination. Cross self-determination with maturity in good people who have a high level of empathic intelligence and commitment to good communication and excellence in the role they play, and I'd say sign me up, it sounds like a really stimulating and fun environment to work in.
(Source: Tim Loc, editorial intern, iMedia Connection, 09/24/10)
- The new age of digital has allowed marketers to track behavior on a real-time basis
- Empathy and maturity are required of workers in a workplace that is peaceful and productive
- One's personality tends to remain stable over a long period of time