What is ‘truth’ in the digital age?

For Kevin Keane “What is the truth?” is an interesting question with many possible answers.

“If we’re talking about the truth, there’s the truth in a set of facts and there’s…how we perceive that truth,” says the founder and CEO of Brainsights, which specializes in neuroscience as a tool for marketers to obtain deeper understanding of consumer behaviour.

The company looks at the ways people unconsciously react to and interpret content and information. That work, Keane says, reveals how common it is for people to be shown the same thing or played the same message, yet see and hear totally different things.

People of different ages, races, genders etc. have different life experiences that impact how they process information and perceive the “truth,” says Keane. This is especially important to understand in the digital age, when people are inundated with information, data and often wildly contradictory proclamations of truth.

Keane will be presenting on this topic at next week’s edition of Ensemble in Toronto, focused on “The Future of Truth.” Speakers will touch on the theme in relation to politics, media and, of course, advertising and marketing.

Keane’s perspective comes from his work using neuroscience as a tool for marketers to understand consumer behaviour in terms of their deep, unconscious reactions and sentiment.

“We can’t really talk about the future of truth, if we don’t talk about  managing our individual unconscious biases,” said Keane. “Culture, gender, race, age, experience are all impacting how the mind’s eye sees the world, and our behaviours and decisions are driven by that.

“If we’re all seeing the same things in fundamentally different ways as it pertains to how our unconscious minds are processing that set of facts, then how can we hope to agree on a set of facts, i.e. the truth?”

This has profound implications for anyone—marketer, media, politician—trying to communicate a message or tell a story to an audience. For example, Brainsights tested the Toronto Raptors’ famous “We the North” ad on caucasian and non-caucasian millennials.

“It was like they saw two different ads,” he said. While both groups liked the ad, the collectivist language—”WE the north”—meant more, and felt more welcoming, to many non-caucasians, many of whom came from newer Canadian families.

“That outsider type of language and mentality felt like a rallying cry for a community that’s being built around that outsider identity,” he said.

For Brainsights, the three key metrics to assess a piece of content or messaging are attention, emotional connection and encoding to memory. “If I’m paying attention to different things, if different stimuli are driving emotional connection, and if I’m remembering different things, I functionally had a different experience with that piece of content,” said Keane.

The exact same piece of content, two very different experiences, two very different versions of the truth.

For more information or tickets on Ensemble click here

Chris Powell