Fridays @ 4 are Xdesign’s growth workshops in which we set out to learn something new to improve ourselves and the work we do.
This post is based on Simone’s Friday @ 4 exercise where we explored how our brains follow patterns and how doing so causes us to form habits, specifically as it relates to buying and shopping tendencies.
Here at X, we took part in a simple exercise that tested our brain’s ability to perceive patterns using our long-term memory and past experiences. To do this, we were asked to decipher images that were slowly revealed to us on a screen.
Within the first few seconds, we could start to piece together the image. We quickly discovered that not everyone’s pattern recognizing skills are created equal, as some were able to fill in the blanks much faster than others. But, regardless, everyone was eventually able to identify the pictures presented.
Try the game for yourself and see just how quickly your brain can identify the picture.
Were you able to guess the image within the first few reveals? Then your brain’s ability to see and acknowledge patterns is right on track.
As humans, our brains are hard-wired to see patterns in everyday life. When you played the game, your brain put the pieces together, like a puzzle, by tapping back into a database of past experiences and memories to figure out exactly at what you were looking.
For example, even if you’ve never seen the Statue of Liberty in person, we can bet that you know what it looks like. Once your brain picks up on the pattern, it is then able to fill in the blanks in a matter of milliseconds.
Yes! As a result of your brain’s pattern recognizing nature, you sometimes form habits or repetitive behaviors caused, yet again, by your knowledge of past experiences. When something good happens to you, your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel good. When this happens, your brain literally tells you to do it again when the opportunity arises.
“Whenever you experience something new, your brain responds by firing neurons in specific patterns. If you have the same experience again, the neurons fire in a similar pattern, and if it’s repeated enough times, your brain actually creates special, more energy-efficient neural pathways that are like grooves on a well-wrung rug.” - Coren Apicella, Brain Games: Patterns (S. 4 E. 9)
This quote explains why in many cases, consumers come back again and again or know to break the pattern based on a bad experience. If you go to a store and experience great customer service, or you buy a really cool product, your brain pushes you toward repeating that experience, therefore following a pattern.
As marketers, we can also play into consumers’ past experiences to create more effective advertising campaigns. We can utilize our pattern-making brains to subtly influence consumers’ actions based on their buying habits. Although you may not realize it, it’s actually being done all the time.
For example, habit expert Duhigg explains that one big retailer has figured out that women who buy certain items, such as vitamins and unscented lotions, are often pregnant. [That retailer] will start mailing these women coupons for baby products so that they form the habit of buying [baby products] from that particular store. This is not only a great way to keep the customer coming back, but it also opens doors for marketers to appeal to new customers.
For tips on how to target customers based on their buying patterns, read more here.
And to learn more about our ability to recognize patterns, check out this episode of Brain Games.