Friday, October 18, 2013

Cracking the Non-Conscious Code a Virtual Reality

Researchers Apply VR to Help Unlock the Unconscious in Consumer Decision Making

By Marc Dresner, IIR

Say you’re in a warehouse on a platform suspended 60 feet above a cold, hard concrete floor.

A “friend” dares you to traverse a narrow catwalk—no railings—to the other side of the warehouse.

Are you up to the challenge?

I’m not generally afraid of heights, but I don’t have a deathwish, either.

But what if you knew that this was all an illusion—albeit a very realistic one—and that you were actually in an office with your feet planted firmly on plush carpeting?

You’d take the dare, then, right?

Perhaps not.

According to Leiberman Research Worldwide CEO Dave Sachman, that first step is still a doozy.
Dave Sachman

That’s because virtual reality (VR) technology today can create simulations that feel so authentic that subjects have difficulty overriding their intrinsic impulses with logic and reason.

Ergo, Sachman says when he first put on virtual reality goggles to tackle “the pit” exercise he froze.

“It allowed me to understand how smart people—no matter how well they know the situation and no matter how hard they try—they can’t stop their non-conscious from taking over their mind,” Sachman said.

The experience led Sachman to the intriguing notion that this technology might be thus applied by consumer researchers to get at that unconscious real estate in our heads purportedly responsible for the lion’s share of decisions.
Indeed, applying virtual reality—LRW has trademarked “Applied VR”—in pursuit of the Holy Grail of insights is precisely what Sachman, his colleagues and their partners at the Pragmatic Brain Science Institute (co-founded by Sachman) have been working on.

In this interview with The Research Insighter podcast series, Sachman discusses what they’ve been up to, how it works and why VR is not just another shiny new toy for researchers to play with.

Editor’s note: Experience “The Pit” for yourself in LRW’s virtual reality lab at The Market Research Event 2013 taking place October 21-23 in Nashville, TN.

For information or to register, please visit

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s senior editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.

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