2020: the year of change? – or more of the same?

Posted by Michal Matukin on the 7th February, 2020
The results we’ve gathered show how strongly our environment, events around us and media influence even personal aspects of our lives, including New Year’s resolutions.

We all know the truth about New Year’s resolutions. While we explicitly claim we will do great things and take over the world, deep down we are usually anticipating some level of failure… aren’t we? At Walnut, we use neuroscience to get to the heart of such contradictions and understanding the truth behind stated declarations. So, with that in mind, we applied RT resting to some common New Year’s resolutions to discover whether there are any we truly believe in and understand which we are least confident about fulfilling.

Looking beyond declarations with Reaction Time.
Whenever questions about emotional attitudes are asked, Reaction Time testing can harvest additional outputs. Applying neuroscience in this way allows us to measure not just what people say, but also the certainty of their response. This implicit dimension adds a layer of understanding to help us better comprehend human attitudes. In short, confident (faster) answers indicate higher quality connection between rational and emotional views, eventually resulting in stronger opinions, more durable attitudes, more accessible associations, that result in deeper influence on an actual behaviour. Slower answers, on the other hand, can indicate the reverse.

The results we’ve gathered show how strongly our environment, events around us and media influence even personal aspects of our lives, including New Year’s resolutions. Having said that, we can start by stating that over 80% of respondents truly believe that 2020 will be a year of change. It shows that most of us feel something is shifting and in motion this year. But what will change? Do we have a clear view on our ability to execute these changes? Are we excited? Are we afraid?

Which resolutions are we most certain about?
The strongest beliefs are related to spending – simply, we are planning to manage our money better in 2020. It is reasonable that if we strongly believe the new year will bring changes, then it would be good to be prepared and save some money. Moreover, we are certain that we can change our eating habits and physical activities to start a healthier life.

Whilst people remain confident that they are going to change these aspects of their lives, when asked them about dieting and the reduction of alcohol consumption, the attitudes are much more polarized. Around 40% of people said that they will go on a diet and they truly mean it, but the remaining 60% said no and they were equally certain about this answer. With alcohol, the situation is the same. It seems that even among those who really believe they will change their health habits are the people who won’t give up alcohol. We also found that above 60% declared they will read more books and are quite certain this is true. Equally, more than 70% of people are confident they will not be changing their job.

Which New Year’s resolutions are just lip service?
The results also revealed some wishful thinking, where doubts and uncertainty are almost palpable among the people. The highest explicit score we observed was that 2020 will be a good year for time with friends and family. Over 85% of us agree with this statement. Unfortunately, this attitude is not supported on an emotional level. It’s possible we do not believe it likely to happen, or maybe there are too many unknowns on our relationships in this day and age.

Another wishful thinking attitude is focused on working to be a better person in 2020. Declaratively, obviously we agree, and we will tell it to anyone who wants to listen. Yet, on an emotional level, we have some doubts. It seems that in our heads we conduct an internal discussion: Working on myself? Sure, I will be more physically active, I will eat healthier, and I will also take care of my money, isn’t that enough? Won’t that make me a better person? Then doubts sneak in… we know that working on ourselves is hard. We will try, but… no promises!

There is also one clear area to which we cling on a conscious level, but completely do not believe on an emotional one. We have serious doubts we can stop wasting time with people who don’t value us. On a rational level, it is something that was declared by over 80% of people, but almost no one was truly confident. Obviously, it is a much more complex matter. Our internal emotions just show that it won’t be easy for us or maybe that we are not ready yet.

…and what about our strongest doubts?
At the beginning we shared that Brits believe this year will be a year of change. Above, we highlighted some of the common changes we discovered, but saved one powerful insight for the end of this brief story.

We asked if 2020 will bring a better quality of life for people in our country. The rational results show that 54% of us think it will and 46% think it won’t. However, on an emotional level both groups have some serious doubts about their own answers. No matter how they voted, the implicit beliefs indicate worries about these changes and uncertainty of what is in store. Could recent, looming political events and what feels like chaos reported in the media on a daily basis be skewing our capacity to believe in a brighter future? Or, any future at all?

We can only hope and believe that 2020 will be prosperous, and continue to work on achieving our goals, whether we believe we really will or not!

Response time reveals a more complete story.
What is interesting is the fact that most of these scores wouldn’t be revealed if not for the application of RT testing. The rational declarations show a different, flatter and shallow picture, and they miss a big part of the story. It shows how beneficial it can be to add an implicit layer to research findings. Especially in the case of all surveys aiming to predict actual behaviour or to discover a people’s true perception. The same idea is true for all questions about brand equity, product image, category values, communication performance or sales drivers.

Wherever the questions about emotional attitudes are asked, RT testing can bring a lot of new insights. It has the power to make the outputs even more actionable. At Walnut, we combine neuroscience techniques, including RT testing, with our behavioural science approach and deliver them in a user-friendly format. All to bring the best-in-class insights on human behaviour, so our clients can benefit in full, from the implicit techniques. Interested to know more? Contact us!

As featured in Research-Live

Meet the Author: Michal Matukin
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