The power of mental simulation

IMAGINE  You're about to indulge in your all-time favorite snack. Go ahead, close your eyes and let your imagination paint a vivid mental picture. Can you see it? Can you almost taste it, even feel its texture? That's the remarkable magic of mental simulation. It's as if desire and reality converge, sparking both cognitive and physiological reactions. And guess what? That's precisely what we marketers harness to capture attention and drive decisions. 


 Have you ever wondered why our promises to start that diet "next Monday" often crumble? It's the allure of instant gratification – the mouth-watering indulgence versus the distant promise of a healthier self. You see, our minds gravitate towards the present, leading to a battle between fleeting desires and long-term goals. This tussle is the heart of one of the most frequent consumer dilemmas: the now versus the future. 


That´s my passion, delving into the secret mechanisms of consumer minds, here, into the art of mental simulation. We've found a way to navigate this cognitive landscape and influence decisions. In our studies, we discovered that visualizing the process of consuming a product heightens desire but often leads to less healthy choices. On the other hand, focusing on the outcomes triggers similar desire, yet steers people towards healthier options.  


So, marketers, let's talk strategy. This is where the magic lies – in crafting communication that guides different types of mental simulations. The message should make consumers imagine the ¨right¨ thing. But it's more than just evoking moments; it's about stirring the right feelings. Prompting people to think about the aftermath of a tempting snack can break "the moment." Your message, and what your ad evokes, must align with the product and its image in consumers' minds.  


Bottom line: we're not just making ads here; we're shaping those fleeting moments that sway decisions. So, let's not just watch the clock tick by; let's own those moments and make them work for us, long after the choice is made. 


And remember, at IR-Insights, we're catalysts for transformation. Marketing is a tool for driving positive change. So let's create compelling narratives, and inspire impactful shifts. Together, we shape not just preferences, but a happier tomorrow.

Post by dr Naomi Muñoz Vilches - Lead Researcher

See more about this discovery in my scientific publications:  

Pleasure or Health? The Role of Mental Simulation in Desire and Food Choices. Muñoz-Vilches, N. C., van Trijp, H. C. M.,Piqueras-Fiszman, B.| 2020 Foods 9 (8). 

 The Psychology of Food Choice: Anticipation and Mental Simulation. Piqueras-Fiszman, B., Muñoz-Vilches N.C.| 2020 Handbook of eating and Drinking. 

 Tell me What you Imagine and I will tell you What you Want: The Effects of Mental Simulation on Desire and Food Choice.

Muñoz-Vilches, N. C., van Trijp, H. C. M.,Piqueras-Fiszman, B.| 2020 Food Quality and Preference, 83. 

 The Impact of Instructed Mental Simulation on Wanting and Choice between Vice and Virtue Food Products

Muñoz-Vilches, N. C., van Trijp, H. C. M.,Piqueras-Fiszman, B.| 2019. Food Quality and Preference, 73, 182–191.