To be or not to be…Subjective

Anyone who has ever completed a Myers Briggs analysis will understand how we are split into 16 sub-categories based on four axes (Extravert/Introvert, Thinkers/Feelers, Sensers/Intuitives and Judgers/Perceivers).  At least one of these axes – Thinkers and Feelers, helps us to understand how we are fundamentally wired differently in terms of how we function in terms of objectivity (based on factual evidence), and subjectivity (based on emotion and feelings). 

Whilst many business disciplines are objectively measurable; creativity has for centuries been governed by a creative intelligentsia, who set the agenda for what becomes the norm. The term ‘Art is subjective’ is synonymous with many of our great innovators of our time – setting the bar for creative excellence. But with 200 million items of content being published every 60 seconds, creating a world oversaturation of content, businesses need to find and apply new metrics to understand the likely response to their content; and to replace narrow (subjective) judgements, with universal (objective factual) insights into how this content might perform.

In this article we will look at how science is entering the world of the creative processes, and what businesses can learn from analysing the brains behaviour in predicting the responses to visual content.

The rule of 5

If we take a step back for a moment and imagine a bus stand poster for our favourite product – there are many things that affect our engagement with the information the brand owner is attempting to convey, from lifestyle improvement to health benefit, and from environmental significance to price point and value.  In our poster we have a photograph, a claim, a product view, a brand, product information and a call to action.  From QMUL studies into human biological brain function it is proven that the brain can cope with about 5 items of content in the zero moment of truth.  So, what if we have 6 or more items of content; or more significantly what of the context of the poster – can we see easily in terms of its’ ambient context, our own juxtaposition to the poster and a myriad of other factors which impact on whether it captures our attention or not.  In essence we are taking a gamble with our content that consumers will see at all, let alone engage with it. 

The science behind subjectivity vs objectivity

So how do we best use our knowledge of subjective and objective human brain function when attempting to engage our target consumers? The application of scientific metrics has been elusive and differences in opinion over creativity have arguably reigned as the drivers of innovation.   But science has begun to enter the world of creative processes. According to scientific studies in response to visual stimulus, the human brain is separated into 2 systems: system 1 and system 2 thinking. 

System 1 is the brain’s automatic, intuitive, and unconscious thinking mode. It requires little energy or attention, but it is often biased prone – think objective biological processing. System 1 is more influential and guides our day-to-day decisions. By contrast system 2 is a slow, controlled, and our analytical method of thinking, where reason and emotion dominates – think emotional and subjective response.    Both are important – system 1 relates to whether and what we see in terms of attention priorities and system 2 our emotional response.

So, with that basic distinction clear we are able to see that objectivity forms part of the human brains system 1 visual processing.  In essence our visual objectivity is based on a repeating biological formula or algorithm, in which we ingest content through the retina into the lateral geniculate nucleus, where it is prioritised for our attention based on instant interpretation using 5 primary neural pathways:

  • light/dark
  • contrast/edges
  • texture
  • shape
  • colour
  • perspective and patterns – orientation).

Whether as retail, CRO marketers, or brand communicators and UX/UI designers, a knowledge of objective system 1 function of the brain is critical to understanding predicted consumer response to visual content. Therefore, If we don’t use human logic in our content design the chances are that we will make it harder for the brain to engage with what we are trying to convey.

Dragonfly AI is one of an emerging new set of dynamic visual interpretation tools which show is what the human brain sees first.  Not only is this innovative solution applicable to pretty much any content from online to instore, to rich media and video content but it uses the human brain’s system 1 logic to take the guess work out of whether content is delivering as expected; but also and perhaps more importantly it takes the human bias (subjectivity) out of the create analytics debate and replaces it with instant, precise, metrically driven understanding of how our human consumer will respond to our content, and shows us how to optimise for clarity and attention in a world over saturated with content.


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