The Psychology of Personalization: Personalized Experiences

The Dark Ages.

For those who are not familiar with the medieval history, medieval refers to a period of paralyzing technological degradation. A time when no No Netflix. No Hulu. No radio Spotify or Pandora or Sirius. During the Middle Ages, consumers did not receive recommendations based on your previous custom shop. Also receive personalized recommendations for new music, movies or TV shows based on what they had heard and seen. In fact, to see their favorite TV shows, people had to "tune in" at specific times. Presumably, the television industry was creating content for us.However, if you ever wanted to see, we had to do it in their schedules.

It really was a dark time.

OK, so my medieval story might be a bit off. But my underlying point here is that people prefer - and often crave - personalized experiences. And by "personalized experience", I mean an interaction or coupling with a piece of software, a piece of content, or a person (duh) that leaves you feeling that your interests and preferences were actually being taken into account.

Personalization is as if someone gives you a fitted baseball cap with the logo of your favorite team on the front and your initials sewn on one side.

By contrast, no customization is as if someone gives a whole one-size-cabezón baseball cap with any team you hate logo on the front. No initials. No consideration for their preferences of any kind.It is like the person who gave you bought a 48-pack of baseball caps on Amazon and they were just one of many "lucky" beneficiaries.

Fortunately, modern (non-Dark Ages) technology allows us to take advantage of customization than ever before. For example, as in sales, we can now customize our home pages, landing pages, forms, calls to action (CTA), and email messages so that the content and messages we show always adapted the person browsing on it.

However, if you want to learn more about why people crave customization on a psychological level, just keep reading and I'll do my best to explain it.

Why we prefer personalized experiences?

According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: the desire for control and information overload. Let us "desire to control" first.

So we know that a customized experience - by nature - is somewhat different manner to the current situation. It's not just what everyone else is doing with personalization. Instead, you are getting something to suit you. And because of that, you feel more in control.

Truth be told, are not actually making a choice when, for example, can see custom content on a website. But when you know you are getting something that suits their interests, even perceived to have a certain level of control over what you're committing to.

Even if this sense of control is an illusion, it is still powerful, and can have a positive effect on your psyche. According to Psychology Today, people feel a sense of internal control - ie they think they are in control of their life outcomes, rather than believing external forces are responsible - tend to be healthier and physiologically more success.

Now, let us turn to the second factor mentioned in the study at the University of Texas: information overload.

According to the study, another reason why we prefer personalized experiences is because they help reduce information overload. Or, more precisely, customization can help reduce our perception of information overload.

For example, when you know that the content displayed on a web page suits you, which provides a more manageable framework for engagement. With customization, not presented with thousands of resources to sort and consume. Instead, you are - ideally - present exactly the information you were looking for. Therefore, you will never feel "overloaded" with information.

Relevance to the rescue

Of course, the idea that customization can satisfy our collective desire for control, as well as our desire to reduce information overload, applies only when we know that personalization is really happening.

Think about this: If there are no obvious signs of customization (like seeing your name on the sign of an email), how can even say that something has been customized?

In those cases - when someone is not aware that they are participating with customized content - feelings of control and reducing information overload not come into play. Yet, research (including this study) confirms that people prefer customization, even if they are not aware that they are experiencing.

So why, speaking in psychology, is what still like best custom content in these cases? Simple: It's relevant. And, as humans, we are naturally more inclined to engage with information that we find relevant and interesting.

Not satisfied with that answer? Me neither. Let's go a little deeper.

You see, everything has to do with the reticular activating system of the brain, or RAS (which, FYI, is number 7 on my list of "Top 10 Favorite Activation System"). Moving on ...

Your RAS is the gateway passes the information to reach your brain, and that information is filtered so you know what to pay attention. Have you heard of "selective attention" or "selective hearing"? This ability to focus on one bit of information, regardless while other information, is controlled by the RAS.

As Dr. Rachna Jain once noted in an article in Social Media Examiner about the psychological influence, "Usually, the RAS is associated with the concept of selective attention, which means that naturally orient to information or ideas that are invested in. "

(Image source:

One of the most common examples of RAS in action is known as the "cocktail effect". Here's how it works:

If you're at a party with dozens of people chatting around you, you will probably find that you can ignore or disconnect from those conversations easily. They are nothing more than background noise. But as soon as someone says something that is of particular interest to you, magically you want to tune in to that particular conversation. Important information is, thanks to its RAS, rise above the noise.

Want to know one of - if not the - greatest "cocktail effect" triggered about? Let's explore that next.

The sweet sound

"Remember the name of a person, that person, sweetest and most important sound in any language." — Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Carnegie's point here was to remember the name of a person - and use it when appropriate - is key to winning this person to your way of thinking. He was so interested in this idea, in fact, that he came up with his own system for remembering names effectively.

Clearly, Carnegie understood that something special happens when people hear their own name. And, as alluded to in the previous paragraph, the "cocktail effect" also supports this idea: Your name, as it turns out, is one of the easiest sounds for your RAS to tune in.

While you can easily ignore that stranger in the background complaining about their work or discuss your kitchen renovations, as soon as his name is mentioned, your ears will inevitably come alive.

So what exactly is going on here? My scientific answer is:

Something. Definitely, something is happening. And yes, there is a scientific research that supports my bold claim.

According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Research, when people hear their own name (compared to hear other names), not a single reaction in the brain.

More specifically, hearing his own name - unlike other names - triggers increased brain activation, particularly in the medial frontal cortex (associated with social behavior), the middle and superior temporal cortex (which is associated with long term memory and auditory processing, respectively), and the cuneus (which is associated with visual processing).

Based on this research, it is clear to hear his own name certainly makes something special happens in your brain. But how can you use this information to improve practice marketing?

Easy! Start using dynamic labels in their lead nurturing emails so you can cope with the recipients by name. You can also greet returning customers by name on your page. With intelligent content, the sky is the limit.