Is your System 1 telling you stories?

Can I borrow 1 mins 24sec of your life? – don’t worry all you have to do is click and watch a youtube video (and it’s kinda work, so you don’t even have to feel guilty about it!)

So, can you tell me what you saw happening?

Apparently I’m like the vast majority of people (and I mean I’m like virtually everyone apart from unfortunate souls suffering from autism). I saw a rather aggressive large triangle who was being a bit of a bully. He was picking on a smaller triangle and circle, chasing them around. The smaller triangle and circle are friends. They’re a little intimidated but eventually help each other out so they can escape from the ‘bad’ triangle who ends up angrily smashing everything up when they have escaped.

Did you see something like this?

The interesting part of this is that it’s a brilliant demonstration of the amazing story telling ability of everyone’s System 1 thinking (I’m channeling my inner Daniel Kahneman here).

But look again.  What I actually saw was just 2 triangles, a circle and a few lines moving around a page. But somehow I managed to imbue in these simple shapes characteristics we would normally only associate with people – bullying, fear, friendship, desire, anger (I even managed to decide the large triangle was male presumably because of an associative link I have between bullying and males!)

The amazing part of this is once my System 1 had brought this narrative to my System 2 – and it accepted it – I didn’t stop to consider an alternative narrative – one where all I was really seeing was (in)animate objects.

This is the root of one of my favourite TV ads of all time – Ikea Lamp. Brilliant, simple story telling with a really rewarding end.

So ask yourself, are you harnessing your audience’s System 1 to help you tell better stories?


Posted on 12 February, 2015 in Advertising, System 1 and System 2

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