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The neuroscience behind Reaction Time

The purpose of this summary is to provide short, easy to understand yet comprehensive information about the science behind Reaction Time, theoretical foundations of the method and the iCode™ methodology.

Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA) considers Reaction Time  measurement as one of neuromarketing techniques. The mental chronometry (as Reaction Time is also known) relies on a fact that the brain processes all incoming information in its unique time and we are not aware of the speed of this processing. Reaction time methods are based on measuring the speed of mental processing by recording the elapsed time between the appearance of sensory stimulus and the subsequent corresponding behavior (e.g. providing an answer). Reaction time measurement can be used for various purposes and can have different theoretical backgrounds or practical approaches. The most popular method based on reaction time measurement is Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji to study racial prejudice and other sensitive issues (1995). However, it is not the only approach used by scientists and professionals. Many researchers, who focus on relationship between attitude and behavior, have been applying a different paradigm. The mentioned approach is also based on reaction time, but it assess the strength of the attitude and it’s accessibility rather then pure associations and categorization of the stimuli as it is done in IAT test. One of researchers developing this technique is prof. Russel Fazio, who has shown that correlations between attitude and behavior are much higher among people with strong attitudes identified as opinions expressed with fast reaction time (1986). This approach in comparison to IAT is less depended on the relation between stimuli or the categories chosen for the test and it is more flexible for marketing purposes and much easier to explain to clients or stakeholders. It allows to assess the certainty of an attitude, where an attitude is defined as a theoretical construct that represents an individual’s predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given objects (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), or a network of interrelated beliefs that reside in long-term memory and are activated when the attitude object or issue is encountered (Tourangeau & Rasinksi, 1988). Fazio’s proved that attitude’s strength can be indexed by using a Reaction Time paradigm (2001). He showed that strong attitudes that are highly accessible from memory are much more likely to guide behavior (1986, 1989) and we can identify them with Reaction Time.

Updated on 8 October 2018

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