Comfort – the last priority of our autopilot brains

August 22, 2010 - 4 minutes read

Drugstore, noon, wonderful neat and tidy atmosphere, lovely and recognizable smell of some mysterious aroma, quiet music and tons of women searching for cosmetic products that will make their hair prettier, their skin younger and tanned, their legs slimmer and breasts bigger. Me- searching for a toothbrush.  One glance at overstuffed shell with more than 50 different toothbrushes, my cell rings, I pick it up and start talking. Few minutes later, I realize that I am at the counter, paying for toothbrush that I picked while talking on the phone, I rush out and head home.

Doing some calculations about the bill in the store while in elevator, I realize that not only did I buy a toothbrush that I hadn’t even looked at properly, but I also bought tons of completely unnecessary stuff, like another 30%gratis deodorant, even though I have new one at home, some mascara that I’ve seen on TV few days ago and figure this out: shampoo for greasy hair because it came with a free conditioner. I have dry hair, by the way.

Ok, not the first impulsive shopping in my life, I won’t die, but when I got the toothbrush out later that day, I realized it looked pretty amazing. Wow! It reminded me of some “Beyond 2000” product that they might use on Enterprise. Really, the brush is just WOW, I even called my sister to share the amazement with her. I put the toothpaste on and then there came the “WHAT THE F***?” moment. Brushing my teeth was as comfortable as gargling mouth with bunch of pebbles, the sharp ones. I inspected the brush carefully, this time without “wow, silver-pink spaceship.. wow” and I realized that it was made by someone who has never brushed his teeth in his life. Maybe Mao Tse Tung, who knows (did you know that he didn’t brush his teeth because tigers never brush it, but yet they can chop down an elephant… nice).  I paid for it, so I have to brush it now, no matter it hurts like hell, it is so beautiful anyway, at least for a while, while it’s still so beautiful and glossy. Wait a second, I think there was some logo on the package. Yes, I’ve seen it somewhere else, hmmm… I looked at the package closely and realized it says Pininfarina. Waaaaaait, last time I checked, it had something to do with fancy cars, incredibly expensive furniture and in a minute, I was on Google: Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati… Hmmm, I thought I bought a toothbrush, not a middle-age crisis car.

So, I bought a little bit of a posh luxury, while being on the phone? No. My subconscious did it. Here is what happened:

While being on the phone, concentrating on the conversation, my wicked subconscious was doing shopping. It recognized the logo, connected it to fancy brand traits and made the snap judgment that it must be better than any other toothbrush on the shell. ZZZZZZ… WRONG! More beautiful yes, but better no.

Here is what it looks like, by the way…

How many times have you regretted buying something because your brain was on autopilot mode? This autopilot mode is actually more present than we think and although we think of ourselves as conscious beings who are 100% aware of the surrounding and circumstances that we live in and who are in control of their thoughts and actions, that’s not really the case. Autopilot is a healthy brain mode which helps us live our life without repetitive learning and repetitive decision making, we just lean on our previous experiences and thoughts. It is the way the brain protects itself from unnecessary hard work. And that is what neuromarketing counts on.  Sometimes, you get obsessed while buying a simple hair conditioner, if you have time to read all the labels and if you have extra time to spend in the store, but most of the times, we do impulsive autopilot shopping and we pick out logos that we don’t really recall, but our subconscious does.

So, next time you enter the drugstore, don’t answer your phone, cause your neurons might get you in trouble and your teeth might be angry with your brain. Lucky us, they make us turn off our phones when we are in banks.