Understanding the WholeHuman® Experience

Faith Markham, Diana Bailey, and Laura Sigman
Kim Lundgren, President

Kim Lundgren, President

Laura Sigman, Marketing Director

Laura Sigman, Marketing Director

This busy conference season has seen an abundance of discussion around being more customer-focused in communications (notably at AdMonsters’ Ops2019), product design (this week’s E3) and brand strategy (in heavy rotation on the agenda at IIeX North America). But in marketing research we don't talk enough about *how* to be more focused on the customer. We take for granted that since we're researching we must be focused on them, right? But the reality is that we're still looking at people in a very binary way. 

Complex Humans, Binary Understanding

We know humans are complex, but there’s a widely accepted practice of understanding them in binary ways only: introvert or extrovert; left brain or right brain; emotional or rational.

LRWGreenberg’s WholeHuman® research approach is more nuanced, and honors the head, heart and gut – the three centers of intelligence recognized in psychology and neuroscience. These centers work in conjunction with each other, but each have a unique dimension.

The benefit to businesses? A broader set of variables provides deeper insight to inform smarter marketing and engagement. When all three are taken into consideration at the research stage, we’re able to get to the heart (and head and gut!) of what makes humans – consumers – truly engaged.



In our framework, the head is the cognitive center – the most orderly, highly processed thoughts and ideas. This is where the mind can project the consequences of decisions and identify moral issues. It’s where logic, intuition, reason, perception, discrimination come into play. What we see are the conscious decisions and rationalized responses that drive a particular decision or behavior. People tend to be most comfortable in this center of intelligence when it comes to research since it gives them time to filter their answers and feels less vulnerable.

The heart is the reflective center of intelligence. This is the nexus of more evolved, complex and sophisticated feelings and emotions – anxiety, love, empathy, sympathy, guilt, hope, pride. When we look at the heart we find the emotions that take time to drop into because it requires self-reflection and self-evaluation in order to reveal how people are really thinking. They are also typically more difficult to uncover since these feelings can expose vulnerabilities that people are not willing to share until they are in a more comfortable, trusting situation.

You’ve heard the expression, “my gut tells me” and it’s true; the gut is the instinctive center of intelligence. The gut is the most primal, visceral and instinctive reaction. This is the moment when we react with speed and immediacy. In evolutionary terms this is the source of fight or flight. Your twitch muscle. It’s what Malcolm Gladwell popularized in Blink as thinking without thinking; “choices that seem to be made in an instant -- in the blink of an eye -- that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.” 

Lines of Inquiry and Types of Methodologies

Our WholeHuman ® approach for qualitative and quantitative lines of inquiry integrates these three centers of intelligence. This perspective informs the type of methodologies we employ to understand the human truths in play, gaining deeper and more meaningful insights along the way.

Ultimately, this shapes an accurate story that is rigorous and easily understood. In our last blog post, we started to look at this head, heart, gut approach. We have several different research methods and question types that target each center of intelligence; every study is different and so is our approach to each unique challenge. What isn't different, though, is that we always design our research solutions to address all three.