-or- your brain on Google
This post is essentially a cut section from another post comparing Google Ads and Facebook Ads. This was getting into the weeds when it was over there but couldn’t bring myself to completely cut it. Also fun to think about.
The mindset of a user online is the most important indicator of relevance, intent, desire, and action.
Psychographics is discernible by context
Even if you are targeting the exact same users, your approach should be completely different when they are either:
- actively searching for something, whether they are looking for some info or have a commercial intent, like researching a service, or a product
- curbing boredom, looking for entertainment browsing their newsfeed, hitting the “like” button and checking their likes, or as often is claimed, “staying in touch with friends”
Think about it. Have you ever picked up a cold call in a bad mood? What about a good one? Your mindset encompasses things like level of boredom, attention, stress, emotional investment in a decision.
It’s literally the difference between a purchase now or later/never.
Given all that, I thought it’d be fun to explore research around brain activity based on searching the web (Googling) vs using Facebook.
And the brain activity is completely different.
Your brain on search
Internet searching surges brain activity, specifically around decision making and reasoning
A study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry measured brain activity of digitally adept and digital noobs (old people) when they were searching the web. They did this using functional MRIs with a control of reading text on the screen.
For digital noobs, the activated areas of the brain were similar between search task and reading tasks. BUT the digitally adepts’ activity was different:
demonstrated significant increases in signal intensity in additional regions controlling decision making, complex reasoning, and visionSmall, Moody, Siddarth, & Bookheimer (2009)
In addition, digitally adept people showed a “twofold increase in the extent of activation in the major regional clusters.” With the exception of those not comfortable web searching, the rest of us are highly attentive and in a decision making mode.
Searching the Internet propels the “illusion of knowledge”
A nine experiment study conducted at Yale and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found:
Searching the Internet for explanatory knowledge creates an illusion whereby people mistake access to information for their own personal understanding of the information… [The effect] persists when the queries posed to the search engine are not answered (Experiment 4b) and remains even in cases where the search query fails to provide relevant answers or even any results at all (Experiment 4c). Even when stripped of such potentially integral features, Internet searching still results in increases in self-assessed knowledge. This suggests that the illusion is driven by the act of searching itself.Fisher, Goddu, & Keil (2015)
The gist is that we treat searching the web as an extension of our own cognitive functioning and recall, basically, in this case, Google as a proxy for personal knowledge.
Google, and web search in general, is the tool by which we connect and rely on the Internet as a “supernormal stimulus,” becoming:
A part of transactive memory; people rely on information they know they can find online and thus track external memory (who knows theSparrow, Liu, & Wegner (2011) – via – Fisher, Goddu, & Keil (2015)
answer), but do not retain internal memory (the actual answer).
Maybe more simply put, we decide upfront (subconsciously?) that we will store info and remember where that info is stored (the web) and how to retrieve it (via Google).
So what’s that really mean?
When we search Google, we “own” the results. We’re attached to them in a very personal way and we think that our search as well as the resulting page is an extension of ourselves.
If I want to learn about widgets, and I go to Wikipedia to learn about widgets, my brain does not treat it much differently than if I tried to recall what I learned about widgets in school.
What this means for marketers
Now I can tell I’m “stretching” a little here. But the illusion of knowledge or the repurposing web search as personal knowledge means that when people search for information around solutions (whether information products or posts or whatever), that they are invested in what they find in a novel way.
Search traffic doesn’t just convert at a high rate because of relevance, although that’s a huge part of it, we treat search results like an extension of our memory, with high attentiveness and implicit trust.
Your brain on Facebook?
I suspected people make impulse purchasing decisions on Facebook because they’re all doped up on… dopamine. So let’s see what the research shows. Read the your brain on Facebook post here.