Why Brits are Seeing Red over Russia


Britain’s dislike and distrust of Russia goes deeper than publically expressed opinions suggest.

Using a cutting-edge test of implicit, subconscious attitudes which probes the individual’s innermost psyche, researchers at Mindlab investigated the nation’s opinions about Russia immediately before and just after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, then following the referendum in Crimea.

As Figure 1 below shows, openly expressed views on Russia (explicit responses) were consistently, if only mildly negative on all three occasions, reaching their most negative point after the take-over in Crimea. In contrast, our subconscious (implicit) dislike of Russia is far more intense than these publically voiced criticisms would suggest.   As Figure 2 shows, the Olympics had a positive impact on people’s subconscious attitudes towards Russia, but this effect was undone by the controversy in Crimea.


Publically expressed attitudes towards Russia were negative at all three time points. It is only when looking at implicit attitudes that we see the positive effect of the Games and the negative effect of the controversy in Crimea on people’s feelings towards Russia. These subconscious feelings drive our actions to a far greater extent than our consciously held views, and this finding illustrates just how deep antagonism towards Putin’s Russia is in the UK.

This study shows how sensitive implicit testing is to these changes in attitudes. Simply asking how people feel about Russia would have missed these more subtle, subconscious changes that occurred in response to these events. This type of testing can be used to track how people really feel towards brands, politicians, products or people. Self-reported responses often miss the subtletes of opinion shift.

“Mindlab offers the most accurate and effective market research available because we don’t just ask people what they think, we find out how they feel.”
Duncan Smith, Mindlab

Notes to reader:

A total of 621 UK adults were questioned and tested for their implicit (subconscious) attitudes using a modified form of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) on: 28th/29th January 2014; 24th/25th February 2014 and 17th/18th March 2014.

For a full report or further details on the research mail@themindlab.co.uk



Subliminal Selling by Dr David Lewis


Over a six-week period, in the summer of 1957, fifty thousand Americans became the unwitting Guinea pigs in a mind control experiment intended to change advertising for ever.

James McDonald Vicary, a 42-year-old market researcher, claimed to have installed a subliminal projector of his own design in a New Jersey movie house. During the run of Picnic, a popular romance film his machine flashed two advertising messages onto the screen. One read: ‘Thirsty? Drink coca-cola’ the other ‘Hungry? Eat popcorn.’

Because each was displayed for just 3 thousandths of a second, audiences remained unaware of them at a conscious level. Yet, according to Vicary, by influencing their subconscious, he increased Coke sales by 18% and of popcorn by 58%.  “This innocent little technique,” he boasted, “is going to sell a hell of a lot of goods.”  Far from applauding his ingenuity, however, press and public were outraged. Journalists accused him of ‘brainwashing’ the American people while Newsday described his device as ‘the most alarming invention since the atomic bomb.”

Five years later Vicary admitted it had all been a hoax. A publicity stunt designed to generate business for his struggling firm.
Largely as a result of his deception and the furore it generated  ‘subliminal advertising’ virtually vanished from mainstream research for nearly half a century.  Subliminal advertising not only works, it is probably at work in a supermarket or shopping mall near you.
In one study, Johan Karremans and his colleagues at the Department of Social Psychology at Radboud University, Nijmegen, displayed the name of a popular brand of iced-tea, for 23 milliseconds, as their subjects worked on a computer based task. Later, when offered a choice between iced-tea and mineral water a majority chose the tea. (1)

Equally effective is supraliminal priming. Here, although in plain sight, the priming is seldom noticed due to what is termed Inattentional Blindness. We don’t perceive what we don’t attend to.
Take in-store music.

Charles Gulas at Wright State University and Charles Schewe at the University of Michigan found baby boomers were more likely to buy things against a background of classic rock. Yet two-thirds were unable to say what music was playing as they shopped. (2) In another study, wine buyers exposed to classical music did not buy more wine but they bought more expensive wine. (3)

Aromas too play a far more influential role as supraliminal primers than generally realised.  During a ten-day study, Lieve Doucé and her colleagues at Belgium’s Hasselt University, infused a bookshop with the scent of chocolate for half its opening hours. Despite being too subtle to be easily detected, the aroma increased the time customers spent browsing, the number of titles they reviewed and the number of books bought. The greatest effect was on books about food or drink together with romantic novels sales of which increased by an impressive 40 percent when chocolate aroma was present. (4)

So the next time you shop, ask yourself.  “Do I really want to purchase this item – or is my subconscious being manipulated to make me think I do?

Dr David Lewis-Hodgson



(1) Karremans. J. C., Stroebe, W. & Claus, J. (2006) Beyond Vicary’s fantasies: The impact of subliminal priming and brand choice, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 42, 792–798.
(2) Gulas, C. S. & Schewe, C.D. (1994). Atmospheric segmentation: Managing Store Image With Background Music, Enhancing Knowledge Development in Marketing, Ravi Achrol & Andrew Mitchell (Eds.), Chicago IL: American Marketing Association, 325-330.
(3) Milliman, R. E. (1982). Using background music to affect the behaviour of supermarket shoppers. Journal of Marketing,  46 (3), 86-91.
 (4) Doucé, L., Poels, K., Jansssens, W. & De Backer, C. (2013) Smelling the books: The effect of chocolate scent on purchase-related behavior in a bookstore marketing: The role of fragrance and its interaction with other atmospheric and non-atmospheric cues in a shopping experience, Journal of Environmental Psychology (July)



Is Neuromarketing too expensive?


Neuromarketing is really expensive and time-consuming. Or is it?

It is well documented that most of our decision making is done outside of conscious awareness and is influenced by factors unknown to us. This non-conscious processing can’t be ignored if you want to understand consumer decision making, however, it usually is. Traditional market research techniques rely on explicitly asking people what they think and this only gives part of the real answer to why people make consumer decisions.

Companies looking for effective market research are increasingly turning to new innovative techniques and methodologies adapted from behavioural economics, neuroscience and psychology, applying them directly to consumer choice.

The reason why people are interested in these solutions is simple – Many marketing directors don’t trust the results of traditional market research. We increasingly find that traditional market research is being used as a comfort blanket – a buffer, something to blame when campaigns don’t succeed as expected. A client recently told me that he uses market research because he has to and he treats the outcomes as nothing more than an opinion and not fact.

Neuromarketing offers exceptional insight into decision making process but many of the brain imaging methodologies employed are invasive, time-consuming and expensive. There is often a leap of faith required for marketing and research professionals to move from using surveys and interviews to wiring up people’s brains or putting them in a scanner. What has become clear is that the middle ground needs populating where marketers can access these insights quickly, easily and at a lower cost.   You can however get useful insight into the processes underlying consumer attitudes and decision making without using expensive imaging technology. Running tests online allows you to check the effectiveness of communications quickly, inexpensively and easily with a diverse demographic and much larger sample sizes than in-lab studies.

One of the key tools is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). IATs can measure implicit or unconscious attitudes and beliefs about products and brands. The IAT bypasses social desirability biases and explicit processes to examine underlying processes. IAT’s are easily administered online and can be used to evaluate attitudes and reactions to brands, advertisements and packaging design.

These new, scalable proprietary tools measure what people think and feel on both conscious and non-conscious levels. The future of effective communications checking will allow companies to apply these techniques in a bespoke, cost effective and useful way giving valuable insight into consumers’ likely future behaviour. All too often consumers do not do as they say. To quote a busy CEO: ‘Cut the crap – tell me what people REALLY think’.

Duncan Smith, Mindlab

Mindlab offers the most accurate and effective market research available because we don’t just ask people what they think, we find out how they feel.



New Frontiers


Navigating the New Frontier

With the increasing fragmentation of many traditional marketing media and the intensity of competing messages on the rise, those in marketing, advertising and retailing must work ever harder to capture the attention of consumers and persuade them of the merits of their propositions.

Perhaps one of the most challenging media through which to communicate with the consumer is at retail where the noise of competitive activity is at its greatest and the window of opportunity to convey a message at its shortest. Nevertheless the returns, given that the media continues to touch a mass audience on the verge of making a purchase are potentially significant, and for this reason in-store marketing and communication has seen a phenomenal rise in attention and budget over recent years.

A report published by Deloitte in 2008  notes that: “In-store marketing tactics have not only become actively embraced by marketers of consumer packaged goods, many rank it as one of their most effective tools. 75% of manufacturers and 86% of retailers studied ranked in-store marketing among the top four activities in terms of gaining strong ROI.”

The challenge of the in-store medium presented to marketers is also one shared by those striving to measure the efficacy of in-store activity since conventional market research approaches fall flat in the face of the requirement to establish whether a shopper, in the matter of seconds that they have spent in a particular aisle, has seen, engaged with, made sense of and responded positively to a message.

Often in-store marketing, cannot be recalled by shoppers when posthumously interviewed over their awareness. Within the fleeting seconds that a shopper is exposed to an in-store communication their interaction with it is typically at a non-conscious level. As a result they are unable effectively to articulate their response to it, post-rationalising whether or not it appealed if questioned.

As the American psychologist Robert Zajonc has commented: “We sometimes delude ourselves that we proceed in a rational manner and weigh all the pros and cons of the various alternatives. But this is probably seldom the actual case. Quite often ‘I decided in favour of X’ is no more than ‘I liked X’. We buy the cars we “like,” choose the jobs and houses we find “attractive,” and then justify these choices by various reasons.”

This suggests that familiarity, likeability and other emotional responses are significantly more likely influence a decision to buy than calm and reasoned deliberation.

Can neuroscientific techniques provide us with some of the answers to our problems with respect of evaluating in-store marketing activity?

The technologies which underpin Neuromarketing are capable of capturing non-conscious attitudes, brain and other associated physiological activity objectively and in great detail however, to date, the majority of measurement exercises have been performed in relatively controlled conditions and have focused on the evaluation of stimuli such as TV advertising, website and packaging design. There are significant challenges to overcome if we are to transfer these measurement techniques from the laboratory to the real world.

Since the advent of market research in the mid 1900’s the discipline has always been concerned with understanding how and why people make decisions in order to enable businesses to better influence behaviour. The application of these techniques, is in my view, no more than a sophisticated and potentially more reliable means to the same end.

Dr David Lewis-Hodgson

Mindlab offers the most accurate and effective market research available because we don’t just ask people what they think, we find out how they feel.

(1)Deloitte and the Grocery Manufacturers Assn (USA). Delivering the Promise of Shopper Marketing: Mastering Execution for Competitive report. September 2008