Understanding the influence of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis during the pandemic.

consumer behaviour

How the horror of the pandemic and quarantine is affecting our minds during the purchasing process?!

The Somatic Marker Hypothesis refers to the fact that the decision-making process is influenced by psychosomatic factors generated in our body in responses to experiences lived in the past that are recorded in our memory. In such a way when we are faced with an experience similar to one already lived in the past, the MS acts consciously or unconsciously influencing purchase decisions.
The doctor and neurologist, António C. Rosa Damásio, born in Lisbon in 1944, published a book in 1994 with the suggestive name: “Emotion, rationality and the human brain”. There he first held the SMH (Somatic-Marker Hypothesis).
Damasio in his theory affirms that the body, by itself, sends signals translated into sudden, immediate physical changes, which anticipate decision-making and, above all, the possible results of said choices, greatly reducing the workload in the subsequent rational process.

Damasio in his manifesto of 1994 explains that the construction of somatic markers occurs especially in childhood and youth, especially in aspects related to ethics and social conventions, however, the process of acquiring relationships between the body and its environment is continuous learning that lasts a lifetime.

For the neuroscientist, the individual builds a catalogue of stimuli and responses that, even when they are not conscious, act in similar situations. A person has made a decision and that decision has received pain or displeasure as an answer; the body will automatically learn and the next time an analogous situation arises, or a series of causal relationships that lead it to make a new decision under related assumptions, the person will automatically avoid pain through a dispositional system. You may not be aware of it, but this system comes into operation, and it makes you decide by serving as an automatic reminder of the negative consequences that lie ahead (Antonio Damasio – Emotion, rationality and the human brain 1994).

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Today we are subject to many negatively oriented somatic markers, in our mind many situations that can be associated with purchases in physical stores will now be associated with crowding of people and then to a dangerous situation. Similarly, social events and places such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs will be perceived as unsafe places and for this reason, avoided by some people. In addition, there will be an increasingly strong association with prevention and hygiene. In general, the feeling of fear that was aroused in the population will have a decisive influence on the purchasing habits of consumers.

The Coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we work, travel, socialize, shop and more… many of these habits due to the strong resonance they left in our minds, will inevitably change our habits as consumers forever.

Some aspects that we might think will permanently transform people behaviour.

  • Digitalization: People who were sceptical in respect to online purchase have now gained more confidence and noticed the advantages of it. Digital Interactions also has become a normal practice for most of the population, we believe that video calls are now part of our routine.
  • Physical Socialization: On the one hand it will take a while for many people to get back to massive social events, on the other hand probably the younger generation will put more importance on life experiences. We see many people who, as a result of long quarantine periods, remain as indisposed to physical interactions; on contrary, what happened, in other people was a lever to decide to upset one’s life.
  • Remote Work: We think that this phenomenon is here to remain. Many companies understood that they can manage a team remotely and many workers are giving importance to the work from anywhere lifestyle.
  • Hygiene: We believe that sanitation and prevention will be habits that will remain in the future. The use of the mask in environments particularly susceptible to contamination will become common practice.

Apart from some aspects that we cannot define with certainty, what is evident is that as a consequence of all this, the pandemic has led more and more people to online consumption. Consumers who in the past used to make their purchases only offline today have become routine customers on the web.

This process is leading to an acceleration in the technological advancement of the electronic commerce market. New technologies are increasingly crucial to provide online users with a shopping experience that can be as satisfying as a physical store. Augmented reality, Live Commerce, Personalization and Automation of purchasing processes are just some of the aspects that can be implemented by companies to provide a new type of shopping experience that can, on the one hand, avoid fears latent of people and, on the other hand, continue to provide an exciting experience.

What’s your opinion about this? Will consumers behaviour come back to pre-COVID normality or is our way of consuming changed permanently?
Let us know in the comments!

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