Is Technology Changing Us?

We’ve been thinking about the extent to which new technologies and the easy access to information might be affecting consumer behavior. In our research, we’ve discovered that more often than not, consumers claim to do far more research prior to making a purchase than they actually do.  So Google’s new e-Book on what they’re calling the Zero Moment of Truth, or the importance of pre-purchase, online research in consumer decision-making, sparks some intriguing questions and potential contradictions.  It’s clear that services like Yelp, Angie’s List and their numerous ilk are changing consumer habits and practices, but we’re debating just how much is changing in reality versus what is being self-reported by research respondents.

We’re looking forward to paying more attention to the issue and learning more about it in the coming months.  We intend to understand how much people are researching prior to making purchases, but in the end, we are even more intrigued to understand how conducting that research makes people feel about why they buy.

In a related piece of information, we recently read a fascinating article in the New York Times entitled Internet Use Affects Memory, Study Finds.  The researchers cited in the article conclude that the easy availability of information on the Internet may be subconsciously affecting our strategies for what we remember and how we remember it. Study subjects who thought they would be able to retrieve facts they entered into a computer remembered that information less than those who thought the trivia they typed would be erased.  In a different experiment that was part of the same study, subjects who saved this information in computer folders did a better job of remembering the folder where a fact was stored than the fact itself.  What an incredibly smart and efficient data-retrieval strategy, and people weren’t even conscious that they were using it!

We intend to closely follow further research on the effects of the Internet and other technologies on human cognition.  For us, the question is not if technology is changing us.  It is how technology is changing us, potentially in ways people and marketers don’t even realize yet.

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