Emotion + Memory


Emotion + Memory

It’s déjà vu all over again.– Yogi Berra

Defined as an overwhelming sense of familiarity, it is a powerful example of how a rogue stimulus can trigger an emotional memory around a non-existent event and it is an important indicator of how our brains work. Despite being a species with a high intellectual capacity, skilled in analytical thought and reasoning, the engine that drives our thinking and our actions is our emotions.

There is overwhelming evidence that emotion is the key driver of human behaviour—it kicks in before we even begin to contemplate an action or a decision, overturning the previous theory that emotions worked in parallel with our rational decision making—instead they are in the driving seat.

One of the things emotion controls is memory. Understanding how memory works—both in terms of creating memories of experiences and working out how to retrieve and measure them—is crucial for insight professionals, and a powerful tool for marketers.

1. Emotions drive cognitive processes—choices, decisions and associations—so emotions are what we need to understand and target. 

2. Our memories are strongly influenced by our emotions, making them accessible, but only if we trigger the experience with the appropriate stimuli. 

3. Memories aren’t linear and they are not well remembered if forced through a structured linear narrative, whereas cognitive interviewing techniques re-create the experience based on the emotional high points. 

4. Low processing attention—background messages, passive watching of TVCs, environmental context of outdoor advertising—lays down associations in long term memory more effectively than high processing attention, where emotions play a lesser part. 

5. People’s memories are their reality of their experiences, and there is much to be learned from that, because as they repeat the memory it becomes more firmly embedded. Behavioural analytics and observation are more effective tools for establishing true behavioural reality. 

6. Many buying decisions are made jointly and many products and services are consumed in social groups, so it makes sense for us to investigate these memories with the relevant group.