This week I delved into learning and memory in the latest module with CXL and their Mini Degree in Psychology & Persuasion. But why is it important to understand how we learn and remember in the context of Marketing? That was my big question entering this module.
Learning and memory are adjacent processes. So what’s the difference? Learning is the acquisition of a skill or knowledge, while memory is the record of past experiences and learning processes (source)
We don’t realise how much memory affects our choices and purchasing decisions. But it does have a big effect. Consider this, the first time you try shellfish you have a bad reaction, now you know not to eat shellfish for all future purchase decisions.
So users memory does have an impact on how they process your website and specific memories may impede them clickingthe “Buy Now” button. So memory does have an impact on users current and future purchasing decisions.
But imagine if you knew some of these blockers or barries upfront. If you did you could address them straight up.
The lesson this week went over three different methods of learning, as well as the key mechanisms involved in memory.
Psychology of Learning
- Classical conditioning
The best example of this is Pavlov’s classic experiment feeding his dog and the bell before feeding. Where a neutral stimulus and a stimulus the naturally evoked response were paired. In that case, the dogs drooled at the sight of food and the neutral stimulus was the bell.
Before the conditioning, the dog drooled at the sight of food and nothing happened when the bell was rung. But when the bell was rung and then the dog was presented with the food they drooled until just the bell being rung was enough to trigger a drool response.
So in summary classical conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a naturally occurring reflex. So then the naturally occurring signal becomes one that triggers the reflex instead.
- Operant Conditioning
This is a process most parents and teachers are familiar with, where we try to modify behaviour through the use of positive and negative reinforcement. The name “operant conditioning” originated by the behaviourist B. F. Skinner who believe we should focus on observed behaviour only. For example, rewarding a child’s excellent school grades with sweets. Or punishing the child for bad grades.
A real-world example of this is the Tinder App, they incorporate associative learning through gamification e.g. keep swiping to get the reward of a date.
- Observational Learning
This occurs through observing and imitating others where people will imitate the actions of others without direct reinforcement. But there are four critical processes for observational learning to be effective:
- Attention – the degree the observer notices the imitated behaviour
- Retention – the ability of the imitator to form a memory of the imitated behaviour
- Reproduction – the observer must have the motor skills and physical ability required to imitate the behaviour
- Motivation – for the observer, perceived rewards must outweigh perceived costs
Psychology of Memory
You can optimise your website to communicate your message with ease, but this is limiting without understanding how user’s process and store that information.
There are three major processes involved in memory:
- Encoding: information changed into a usable form
- Storage: storing that information for later use, usually outside of our conscious awareness
- Retrieval: bringing stored memory into conscious awareness
Memories can last just seconds long with some short-term memories lasting 20 to 30 seconds. But some memories can last days, weeks, months, or even decades. The more memory is accessed to more that pathway in the brain is worn in so to speak. Something we recall on a regular basis will be accessed aerie and quicker than a memory rarely retrieved. Think of it like a trial through a forest, the more time you go along it the more beaten and wider the path gets. As opposed to one rarely access its all overgrown and take a while to get through.
How does memory apply to online marketing?
Eye-tracking studies are a powerful tool that shows you what our users perceive, but without context they are useless. So you need to understand your goals at the beginning and ask follow up questions afterwards. For example, if users recognise an aspect of your product and recall specific product details, then you were able to help them understand and acquire that information quickly.
I personally find HotJar very useful. You can see screen recordings of what a user viewed your website. Seeing where they can into your site(landing page) and the different pages they visit until they leave your site(exit page).
We are so used to looking at our own website that we can become blind to items on the page that may need changing. So when you observe the page through multiple users eyes and they all frequently “bounce” from that one page then you know it’s a page that needs work.
Without this information you would be blind to any problems and therefore would not change anything but users would still continue to bounce away leaving you with less revenue after all the effort you out in attracting those users to your site in the first place.
So there you have it learning is the acquisition of knowledge, while memory is the expression of what you’ve acquired. A key difference between the two things is the speed they occur. For example if you acquire the new knowledge or skill slowly and laboriously, that’s learning. If acquisition occurs instantly, that’s making a memory.
And in the context of marketing, use user testing to give a three-dimensional perspective on how users process information and store it in their memory. Look to experimentation, surveys, and user testing. So above make sure you set goals and use software to track results along the way.
Further reading: http://www.apa.org/topics/learning/index.aspx