All animals, including humans, are wired to react in a way that maximizes exposure to rewards and minimizes the chance of punishment.
What’s new in that?
You already have a fair idea of various discrepancies in human reactions.
However, as you build your personas or figure out your target audiences in another way, your success will depend on how well you define and cater to divergences in reactions.
I am going to make it incredibly simple for you to do that.
First, reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) is the umbrella concept – people respond to happy or adverse situations based on their emotions and traits.
Now, let’s understand the three systems that make up that theory.
- Behavioral approach: This system is divided into four sub-systems – rewarding interest, rewarding reactivity, goal persistence, and impulsivity. If an individual is motivated by the behavioral approach, they tend to be impulsive and more sensitive to your content.
- Fight-flight-freeze: This system involves individuals who are usually sensitive to pain and fear. They will react to all your usual marketing efforts with apprehension. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt content will work well with these people.
- Behavioral inhibition: People are not receptive to rewards or punishment. This system facilitates detection and resolution of conflict by cautious and vigilant behavior. Individuals in this system are the ones for whom you have to work the hardest and the longest to convert.
How do I know what my audience is?
To understand how RST works and how people can be divided based on their reactions, you can make use of a personality questionnaire. One such questionnaire is Corr-Cooper Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory Personality Questionnaire (RST-PQ). Feel free to jump directly to the self-rating questionnaire on Page 20; it helps you get more information about which constructs of RST apply to your subjects. The questionnaire includes over 80 statements to which the survey participant must say how well each describes him or her.
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Content Marketing Institute