Are Autistic Individuals More Likely To Make Rational Purchasing Decisions?

By | 2018-02-22T14:02:37+00:00 February 3rd, 2018|Advertising, Marketing|

There has been little research into the effects of marketing and advertising on individuals with developmental disorders such as Autism.

However, a new study by the Association of Psychological Science suggests that those with Autism are more likely to tune out from advertising, resulting in more consistent decision-making as a consumer.

The study goes on to detail how neurotypical individuals who are highly influenced by marketing and advertising are more likely to make irrational decisions and impulsive purchases than their autistic counterparts.

Over the years, advertisers have honed in on emotive techniques including colour theory, psychological pricing & olfactory marketing in order to manipulate our perceptions and influence our consumer decisions. However, the issue with these traditional marketing techniques is that they work on the presupposition that audiences will be affected by external stimuli in similar ways.

Nevertheless, this study challenges that assumption and goes on to suggest that “people with autism may be able to focus more on detail and less on the bigger picture – which makes them less susceptible to marketing tricks,”.

The findings of this study add hard evidence to the theory that marketing techniques may be less effective on adults on the autistic spectrum, and this leads to those individuals to benefit from an increased ability to make rational purchasing choices.

To test the theory that those with autism have sharper decision making around products, around 300 participants where tasked with identifying the best product out of a series of categories. For example, participants could be shown three USB drives with varying storage capacity and product life spans as a test of their cognitive ability when purchasing a new product.

The results of this experiment shows that when assessing the products from a strictly utilitarian  perspective, adults with autism where more likely to make a rational purchasing decision, and are also less likely to be influenced by factors that induce a psychological response in others such as product colour, celebrity endorsements or unique product packaging.

These findings reinforce the belief that those who are on the autistic spectrum are less susceptible to having their choices influenced by the way that information is presented to them. In simple terms, this means that psychological ‘tricks’ hold less weight to autistic individuals due to the unique way they process sensory data.

Furthermore, the researchers argue that this choice consistency that is shown by those with autism illustrates a more complete and rational form of decision making, which sheds new light on the autistic condition in general.

For more information, this study has been made available at the Open Science Framework, as well as the data for the experiments which has been published by the University of Cambridge.


Also published on Medium.

About the Author:

Digital marketer, music fan & one third of Trendjackers. Rob is a tenacious individual who writes about advertising, marketing & digital multimedia. Connect with him via Twitter @RobMThompson

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