The limbic system decodes and assesses our perceptions
Emotions and/or feelings
Emotions are formed exclusively in our brain, initially unconsciously in the centers of the limbic systems.
We only become aware of them once signals from the limbic centers reach the cerebral cortex.
The cerebral cortex is, as shown, the home of the consciousness. Everything that does not happen in the cerebral cortex happens on the unconscious level.
The system is part of the regulation of affective and motivational behaviour.
The limbic system
The term limbic system sounds like a structural unit, but is, in fact, a functional unit, which consists of multiple, very different structures. Its components are based above the brain stem inside the cerebrum and surrounds the thalamus.
The limbic system’s main components are:
Hypothalamus including pituitary, mammillary body, septum, amygdala, nucleus, accumbens, ventral tegmental area, formatio reticularis, a number of smaller brain stem cores (locus coeruleus, Raphé cores etc) as sub-cortical part, orbitofrontal cortex, vetromedial cortex, cingulate cortex, insulare cortex as (allo-) corticale part.
When the terms for these structures are used in the singular, it must not be forgotten that these structures come in pairs, organized mirror-symmetrically in both hemispheres of the brain.
The limbic system as the assessment and filter center
All sensory stimulus first passes through the limbic system, where they are being processed within 2/10th seconds – on the subconscious level – decoded, assessed and filtered.
Only information that is classified as relevant (reward, threat or novelty) is being passed into the cerebrum for conscious processing and for triggering action.
Implicit and explicit processing: one brain – two systems
The implicit and the explicit system
The limbic system (the subconscious brain) will send impulses, if deemed relevant, to the cerebrum, where the conscious thinking starts. Since we are not aware of this process, which happens in 2/10th of a second on the unconscious level, we end up with a wrong assumption regarding our decision behavior. The explicit system only (re)-invents the seemingly rational reasons for what we do, though the decision was in most cases already made earlier subconsciously.
Why don’t all people decide in the same way?
Dr. Hans-Georg Häusel discovered that the limbic instructions “balance“, “dominance“ and “stimulation“ are responsible for how humans feel, decide and act. These three instructions exist in varying degrees in every person and that is why everyone is different. Since it would be rather impractical for marketing departments to appeal to each individual, consumers are segmented according to six character types.
The fast “thinking” (825’000m/hr.)
All sensory stimulus first pass into the limbic system, where they get processed at a speed of 11,000,000 bits per second.
In order to illustrate the comparison between the implicit (unconscious) and the explicit (conscious) thinking, we may imagine the processing time as an airplane travelling at 825’000 meters per hour.
The slow “thinking” (3m/hr)
The conscious thinking (explicit system) has a processing time of just about 40 bits per second. This is extremely slow, particularly when compared with the implicit system.
Looking at the processing times (11,000,000 vs 40) is like comparing an airplane with a snail, which manages approximately three meters an hour.
Motives are psychological drivers for matters, that don’t happen automatically but require overcoming some resistance
The brain has some congenitally, biologically basic motives, designed to survive and to secure the preservation of our species.
The biological “motives” breathing, circulation, metabolism, fatigue, hormone production and reproduction are regulated unconsciously. Protection from the cold, heat, dangers, diseases as well as the need for social integration are motives by instinct which happen consciously, though we can influence them only in a limited way.
Motives with conscious reward are also called aims
Humans never act randomly – though sometimes appearing thus – but they act target-oriented, based on previous experiences and the effect of genes and epigenetic processes. In other words: humans act motivated and motives are unconscious, intuitive or conscious instructions for action.
The activated reward system triggers the “wanting” impulse
The human reward system consists mainly of brain structures, which lie deep in old parts of our brains, i.e. old in terms of the history of human development. A special emphasis is on a core area, the so-called nucleus accumbens. It is here that nerve cells from the midbrain end, using predominantly the transmission substance dopamine.
In the literature the transmission substance “dopamine” is called “happiness hormone”. This description is certainly incorrect.
Dopamine is, as we have known for a few years, not the transmission substance of happiness, but the transmission substance of pleasurable anticipation or stimulation.
By way of analogy, just as petrol powers a car, so dopamine powers us. Once the petrol has been used up the car will stop. When our dopamine level is too low, we grind to a halt and don’t have any energy for further activities.
But how do we ensure that dopamine is produced in sufficient quantities?
Brain research offers surprisingly simple answers to this question. We need to activate the reward system in our brain. In order to do so, we need to anticipate a reward. The anticipation of a reward triggers the discharge of dopamine and we are stimulated (motivated) to reach that aim i.e. the reward. The crucial question, however, is, what a human decodes as a reward. What represents a reward to one, for example a tandem flight in a paraglider, is a threat to someone else. It is therefore essential to know the personality profile of the person or target group to ensure that the reward will actually be seen as such.
Brand preference – product-preference – purchase decision
Never before were consumers confronted with such product choice as we are today. Almost every product is available with varying degrees of quality, with different brands and at different prices.
From a marketing point of view the important question is, whether or not there is a connection between purchase behavior and the consumer’s personality profile, and whether or not conclusions can be drawn as to which personality type would use what brand and how much money they are willing to spend on a product.
People will, in line with the concept of ‘affect optimization’, seek to buy products which match their motives and therefore are recognized as a reward. Motives are an expression of the personality. What all humans have in common is, that they seek positive experiences and avoid negative ones, but beyond that motives are as different as people and their personalities. This is not at all surprising, because what a person is seeking, is essentially part of their personality.
Since the personality is defined by motives, it can be assumed that purchase decisions depend on the person’s prevailing motives. Brands serve consumers as orientation for their purchase decisions, because they offer – on the level of the implicit system – information about the product’s origin, quality and status. The combination of this information “justifies” the price, which the customer is willing to pay. It can therefore be assumed that consumers will use such products and brands, which correspond to their personality profile.