Tag Archives: cell phone

Technology Takes Toll on Consumer Psyche

By Marc Dresner, IIR
Last week at my nephew’s Little League game I saw two
pedestrians nearly collide in the adjacent park.
Neither of them was watching where they were going because
they were engrossed in their mobiles. (One of them was pushing a stroller. Not
relevant. I just found it amusing.)
The incident reminded me of an anecdote consumer
psychologist and author Kit Yarrow shared at a speech I attended awhile back:
She compared browsing the Farmer’s Market to riding the bumper cars at an
amusement park.
Comical, irritating, a bit sad, perhaps, nonetheless our fixation
with our devices seems harmless enough.
Kit Yarrow
But Yarrow, a Golden Gate University professor and author of
Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How We Shop and Buy,’ thinks otherwise.
Yarrow says the increasing mediation of rapidly advancing technology
in our lives is having a deep and profound psychological impact on people.
It’s not about what we’re doing with technology, she notes,
but what technology is doing to us.
People today think
‘People today think
differently,’ Yarrow said.
Specifically, our attention spans are shorter, we’re less
focused but we’re more adept multitaskers, and we require an increasingly
higher level of novelty and stimulation.
Our brains, Yarrow said, are also being programmed to perceive
better visually and to prefer ‘visual snippets.’
This explains why photo links receive 85% more clicks than
text and why Pinterest ‘pins’ are 100 times more viral than tweets, she noted.
What’s more, Yarrow says our increasing penchant for visuals
lends itself to heuristics we use to make decisions.
Accordingly, images, symbols, and even colors have
unprecedented communication potency. For example, waitresses wearing red
receive 16-24% higher tips from men.
Technology has also made us more autonomous, but left us
feeling more isolated.
We’re more ‘connected’ than ever, we
don’t ‘connect’
Yarrow points out that although we’re more ‘connected’ than
ever, we don’t ‘connect’ with people they way we did in the past.

We may have more ‘friends’ thanks to social media, but the
nature and quality of our relationships and interactions with people, by and
large, have suffered as a result of technological mediation.
For example, more and more of our communication occurs digitally
and not face-to-face today. The former, a pretty recent development, is
displacing the preferred mode of human communication for thousands of years!
We don’t even use our phones to talk as much anymore; we
use them to text one another.
Consider the implications when as much as 93% of face-to-face
communication may be non-verbal (body language and vocal intonation).
What is being lost and how is it affecting us?
‘We are responding to shifts with our limbic brain
that we don’t understand.’
‘We are responding to shifts with our limbic brain that we
don’t understand,’ Yarrow said.
Something as seemingly insignificant as a dearth of eye contact
engenders feelings of rejection and invisibility, which Yarrow says has among
other things contributed to a rise in disrespectful, rude and rancorous
So, the fact that our heads are always glued to our devices isn’t
just causing us to occasionally bump into one another; it’s actually affecting how
we are socialized.
‘We’ve had the same
basic human needs since caveman days’the need to belong to a community for
safety, security and procreation, the need to love and be loved, the need to
have a purpose in life, etc.,’ Yarrow explained.
‘But as the world has changed, the ways we go about getting
those needs satisfied has also changed. Our brains are malleable. Our
psychology adjusts,’ she said.
‘Our brains are malleable. Our psychology adjusts.’
Due to a variety of factors’uncertainty, the pace of change,
lack of a sense of ‘tribal security,’ etc.’Yarrow says our collective anxiety
as a society is up.
‘We’re in a near state of fight-or-flight. We act like a
bear is chasing us,’ she said.
And trust has been declining precipitously with each
generation. Yarrow noted Gen Y is particularly wary and guarded.
The net of these intertwined shifts, according to Yarrow:
- We have powerful new cravings
for human connection.
- We acquire perceptions, process
information and make decisions in new ways.
- Trust disappointments color

There are, of course, marketing implications here, but I’ve got research on the brain.

I cannot help
but wonder how what we’ll see and hear at The Market Research Event next week ‘techniques, innovations,
insights’will exploit and/or address these trends.

Looking forward to seeing you in Boca Raton!

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.