The 7 Human Insights: Understanding Your Buyer 

Last week, we learned about the different pricing strategies and when/how to implement them. Today, we will review seven different human insights that encourage purchases, which is valuable in understanding your buyer.  

What are human insights? 

According to UserTesting, “Human insight is the process of understanding your customer by listening and observing with empathy. It enables you to connect the dots between what people think, feel, say and do. Traditionally, human insight was acquired through market research, interviews, and focus groups, a process that takes weeks to months.” It’s the “why” behind our behaviors, including purchases. It is the connection from the brain that tells us when to take action, like in the case of making a purchase.  

Why does it matter? 

There are whole textbooks, courses, lectures, and theories behind buyer psychology. The idea is that an organization should have a deeply rooted understanding of the buyer’s brain in order to target them with products or services. It isn’t enough to create demand based on a need and implement a marketing plan around that. Instead, it is important to tap into the emotions of the consumer and connect your product or service to an innate need that is being satisfied.  

What are the types of human insights? 

In this post, we will be reviewing seven human insights that affect buying decisions. Those are: 

  1. Automaticity 
  1. Reciprocal Altruism 
  1. Survival Brains 
  1. Social Brains 
  1. Rejection Hurts 
  1. Empathy 
  1. Rituals and Tribes 


This is the involuntary and unconscious innate tendency and learned social norms of decision making. We automatically do things that feel right to us, or we do things without thoroughly considering the action because it comes as second nature. This can be seen in your commute to work. You don’t necessarily have to consciously think about the drive or how to get there because it comes naturally to you. We have all gotten to where we are going at some point and thought, “wow, I don’t even remember most of the drive here”. Your brain was on autopilot because it knew what to do.  

Reciprocal Altruism 

This is where we do things to repay the things that have happened to us. If you wanted to break this down into the simplest terms at an animal level, David P. Watts describes primates who pick nits from one another’s backs in his book titled “Basics in Human Evolution”: an almost literal interpretation of quid pro quo. In an example of buyer behavior, we see that people are more inclined to make purchases when given a free sample.  

Survival Brains 

The human brain is so powerful, it works even when we don’t realize it. The human body needs fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to achieve maximum efficiency. Fats aren’t as easily obtained in natural occurrences and so our brains tell us when to crave these things so we can actively seek them out. We recognize these cravings now to be acts of survival. Our brains know what fats are good, so we actively seek them out in the form of sweet candies and butter-rich foods.  

Social Brains 

Human beings are social creatures and thrive when living and working in the communities of other people. Purchasing power is also greatly influenced by our social brains. We like to be in the know, and this is perfectly depicted by gossip columns and news channels. When making buyer decisions, status is important to us because we gain greater access to physical resources. When we learn of impending natural disasters, we jump to hoard and stash survival products. When we hear that our favorite celebrity wears a certain brand, we run to buy that brand, too.  

Rejection Hurts 

It is rooted in our genes desire to survive that we are programmed to avoid rejection. In order to procreate, we must be desirable to the opposite sex. When we need to eat, we rely on a community of hunters and gatherers (or in modern times, providers) to put food on our table. All of this relates to our need to be accepted, which applies in social situations as well. We wear the things others are wearing in order to be well-received. We buy what others like, so they know we share the same values.  


According to Professor Eirasmin Lokpez-Cobo, “we are wired with the capacity of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes by projecting ourselves into their minds, feelings and actions”. It is no secret that marketers specifically target the emotions of consumers frequently. Brands will play on ideas such as family, nostalgia, faith, and finances to encourage people to relate to the product or service. Consumers place empathy on the subjects of advertising, assuming they would understand what it would be like to be the people being portrayed using those products in the marketing campaign.  

Rituals and Tribes 

Deep inside of our genes lie “mirror neurons” that are designed to connect us to our ancestors’ behaviors. While we may not find ourselves roaming the plains of the Midwest or fighting off sea creatures in the vast ocean, we have certain criteria that embed themselves deep into our psyche which draw us to certain things as consumers. Marketers, in turn, take advantage of those connections by playing directly to them. This is seen through the efforts of Harley Davidson aiming their efforts towards the “open road, free spirit” mind, or through eBay’s use of haggling and bidding to win goods from others within the community.  

Sum it up 

Our brains are powerful machines that are constantly working things out in the background. We are firing neurons even when we sleep. When it comes to making purchases, our brain does a great deal of thinking and consideration without us even knowing. Marketers know this and want to capitalize on it. As a marketer, which human insight do you think is the most powerful? 

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