Perspective plays a huge role in how our brains process what we think or see, and how we evaluate the relevance and importance of an experience or message. Think of the last live experience that you attended. Because it was “live,” and not pre-recorded, you believed that the speaker, or musician, was on stage entertaining you with real-time sounds. This made the experience much more special.

But, was it really a live production or was it a brilliantly lip-synced performance? It likely was live – we don’t want you second guessing yourself at every experience – it’s just an example to illustrate that your brain (not you) determined it was a live show. The possibility of deception was not even considered.

So, what happened? Our brain often engages in “shallow processing”, automatically interpreting the facts around an experience, like what is true and what is false. It saves us the effort of manually interpreting everything we see because often times, things are exactly how they appear.

That’s why shallow processing is so valuable–it allows us to quickly absorb content without having to fully analyze it. If we evaluated every little thing in life, we’d be overwhelmed and face cognitive overload.


Changing Gears

Sometimes our brain needs to run on autopilot through this long-distance road trip of life, where it can simply coast and observe. And other times, while cruising life’s highway, our brain will shift gears and give us control of the journey so we can process more meaningful concepts – called “deep processing”.

Deep processing is when we recruit and spend additional cognitive resources to root out the truth or determine how we think and feel about a message or an experience. We process something deeply if it catches us unawares, knocking us out of autopilot. We can also choose to think about something deeply if we find it interesting or think it might be important.

Which processing style we use depends to some degree on our personality. Some people like to think more deeply about things than others. But, in general, our default pattern is let our brain take over on autopilot until something grabs our attention or causes us to change up our thinking.

This is where the role of the messengers comes in.

Advertisements, emails, and even everyday conversations can influence our thought patterns. The type of information we use and how we communicate can influence whether our audience uses a “shallow” or “deep” processing style. Both styles have their own pros and cons. So, by delivering the right kind of message for the situation we can ensure that our messages are as persuasive and strategic as possible.


Processing Styles Cheat Sheet

Our Neuroscaping consulting team has pooled together research to help decide the most effective way to share each unique message. We want to share a brief overview to the topic to get you started off on the right foot:


Shallow Processing:

– Known by experts as “peripheral processing”

– Surface thoughts and feelings that influence us in the moment

– Requires very little mental effort

– Effective at changing short-term thoughts, feelings, & actions


Deep Processing:

– Known by experts as “central processing”

– Meaningful thoughts that dig deeper: An evaluation of what’s presented, if you agree or disagree, its relevance to your life and how it makes you feel

– Requires a lot of mental effort

– Effective at changing long-term thoughts, beliefs and actions


For in-depth examples of shallow and deep processing styles, check out our other post.