Affective processing

The neurobiology of affective processing: Important knowledge for decision making in business and economy

Imagine you are a primitive creature exploring the world. You would be exposed to new and unknown environments with every single step you make. Assuming that life is all about survival what would be more important, to name and know what you see or to have an idea whether it can be approached or should rather be avoided? Obviously, for pure survival it's more important to have a system that detects potential danger and is also able to define stimuli in the environment as appetitive than to know what they actually are.

Being the primitive creature that you pretend to be, you don't even have the cognitive capacity to name anything. What evolution though provided you with is affective information processing designed to detect potentially harmful and appetitive sources in an ever changing environment. This was the very beginning of decision making to guide and adapt behaviour.

After the origin of affective processing, evolution provided organisms with cognitive processing capacities which finally allowed language to come into existence. Because affective processing occurred before cognitive development it evolved independent from language. Affective information was never meant to be put into words. Only semantic information, the very basis for cognition, is designed to be verbalised.

Dozens of millions of years later, being a human being you do have cognitive capacity and you are able to use words to verbalise even affective information, but due to its non-cognitive nature words may terribly fail to describe it. And even worse, words can easily be used to intentionally misinform others about your affective inner world.

Translated into the modern world of Clinical Psychology and market research this means that using a questionnaire to get some information about the likes or dislikes related to clinically relevant information, brands, services and products results in biased responses. Biased as a result of wrong introspection or biased as a result of intentional misinformation. Who does not tend to state being reliable, social, honest and trustworthy when asked while knowing that nothing is lost if all is simply made up?

The solution to that problem is to utilise objective measures of affective information processing that do not rely on self report. We test the affective component of your clinical intervention or your solution with technologies that provide you with invaluable insight that will allow you to better shape your therapy or to secure your customers loyalty and thus put you at the front in the market place.

At Webster in Vienna we have access to non-conscious affective processing.