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The Unconscious Mind

Posted September 11, 2014, By Keisha Herbert, Researcher

I have never been a big superhero fan. However the more philosophical skew evident in Lucy, the new superhero movie starring Scarlett Johansson, grabbed my attention. The premise of the film is that we only use 10% of our brain and the other 90% is pretty much useless. However superhero Lucy manages to achieve the impossible -100% brain usage as a side effect of a dangerous drug she has imbibed. Having watched the lovely Scarlett learn Mandarin in an instant I’m sure the audience used at least 7% of their brain thinking what they would do with 100% brain usage!

  Unsconscious thought

Despite 10% brain usage being a long-standing, over propagated myth – and it is a myth - it did get me thinking about the 10:90 ratio split that defines the psychoanalytic perception of the mind. Sigmund Freud theorised that the conscious mind equated to just 10% of our cognitive processing capacity, whereas the other 90% was wrapped up in unconscious thought. And unconscious thought, as we know, comprises an incredibly powerful archive of our deep-rooted memories, experiences, attitudes and values that drive an awful lot about us.

How powerful must that be? Despite the seeming inaccessibility of our unconscious mind, it certainly controls a large majority of our behaviour and perception formation. Ultimately our conscious mind tells us how we would like to be perceived by others whereas our unconscious mind defines who we really are. These distinctive differences also shape how we as consumers make decisions. And we know that trying to understand the motivations of the modern consumer is a very dark and complex art that brands are working hard to master.

  So what does this mean for brands?

It is the unconscious mind that has the deeper connection – or not - with the brand positioning, values and communications. It is the unconscious mind that fundamentally reacts to messaging and is then followed by the conscious. So what does this mean for brands? The question isn’t which logo the consumer prefers; rather it is why they prefer it that we need to understand. And that can be difficult to articulate.

As semioticians have long declared it is the cultural experiences a consumer holds dear that impacts their deep-rooted unconscious thoughts. Whether these experiences are part of an overarching culture or a sub culture, the needs, motivations and values of the consumer group are shared and are the building blocks of their collective unconscious.

  Child development

Children anywhere in the world are born equal. At least for those fleeting first few breaths. All children follow the same developmental pathways to adulthood and the first seven years of life are said to be almost identical no matter where you are in the global village, because biology is the primary driver for development. But when the children reach around seven years of age and understand who they are and where they are and are capable of what Jean Piaget called “Concrete Operational Thought” – the ability to see the world as it is – then culture becomes the primary driver for development.

Children, are impulsive. Their brains have not yet ordered and segmented the rational from the unconscious and this is one of the reasons that they are fundamentally difficult to provide for.

  Developing products for children

The key to all the work we undertake at Kids Industries is understanding the development of the child. The journey that biology puts us all in is one pre-determined and most certainly innate. The child is driven by impulses that they cannot define because they’re not ready to and frankly they don’t need to – and nor should they – they’re children.

Armed with knowledge of cognition, emotional and social development - the pathways of physical growth - we can begin to decode consumer actions and interpret their motivations to make better and more effective products and experiences for them. By understanding the conscious and unconscious side of the consumer all at once we can create products and experiences that they didn’t realise they wanted, but adeptly match their deep rooted values and beliefs.


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