Who Wins The Emotional War On Our Hearts: Cats Or Dogs?


The aim was to use our implicit response tool IX to investigate which attributes were most aligned with Cats & Dogs and then to show a funny cat video, in this case an ad for Cravendale Milk, "Cats With Thumbs" starring a bunch of clever cats, and then re-assess people's response to Cats & Dogs after they'd been exposed to the ad.

Cats With Thumbs on YouTube

What would this show us? It would show the power of change that a video, an ad, or experience can have on our impression of that thing.

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Implicit response tests prime participants to trigger associations, then measure the strength of those associations by asking them to react when paired with the brand or stimuli.

The faster the response time, the more closely associated is the stimulus and primed word for that participant.

Based on two well-established findings in brain science :

  • 1) Whenever we are presented with a stimulus, concepts are triggered or primed in our non-conscious mind, ready to become active (for example, if you buy a new car, suddenly you are primed to see that model everywhere!)
  • 2) When we are presented with 2 matching ideas, we can react to them faster than when presented with mis-matching ideas

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The implicit response test was run as a 2 legged study on either side of the Cravendale ad.

We selected 7 attribute words under two category headings, as follows :



Appearance Based


Appearance Based


Appearance Based


Appearance Based


Character Based


Character Based


Character Based


Participants from all over the world took part, with the majority of them being from within the UK. They accessed the online implicit response test via a link that we shared and they took part via browsers on their computer. The study took approx. 15 minutes to complete.

Before the implicit part of the study began we asked a few questions to determine if people perceived themselves to be cat or dog or just animal lovers.

And after the implicit study we asked if they thought the ad was fun and engaging, and also how accurately they felt the ad portrayed cats.

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Before the 1st leg of the implicit response we asked:

So it's clear that dogs have the upper hand with the preference, but 90% of our participants still like a bit of fur in their lives.


When you look at the results from the 1 st leg of the implicit response you can see that the top attributes for dogs are Strong, Greedy and Loyal. Strong and loyal are more obvious ones, especially since our choice image of a dog was a German Shephard. Greedy could be interpreted as slightly surprising, until you consider that dogs are affectionately seen as greedy by dog owners. Most dog owners can attest to the fact that a dog will eat and eat no matter whether they were full or not.

The top attributes for cats were Clean, Clever and Sleek, as one would expect.


What we saw after participants had completed the 2 nd implicit response leg was that the area under both of the radar graphs increased, much more so for cats but there was also for dogs there was a slight overall increase. By watching the ad about the cats there was a general amplification for all the attributes for both cats and dogs.

The top attributes for Dog are now Strong, Fluffy and Loyal so in light of viewing the ad dogs are seen as less greedy and more fluffy.

The top attributes for Cat are now Greedy, Sleek and Fluffy so the idea of cats being greedy has been reinforced by the ad.

Both cats and dogs have benefitted from an increase in the Fluffy attribute having watched the ad.

:: After the 2nd Leg of the implicit response we asked:

And also how accurately did people feel the advert portrayed cats?


When you look at the changes in attribute scores across the 2 legs we can see that the majority of associations for Dogs have fallen compared to those for Cats.

This is due to the fact the ad only featured cats but interestingly the ad has helped increase the association (or idea) that "pets are fluffy" of which both cats and dogs are intrinsically linked to. So dogs have benefited from the "fur effect" despite not being featured.

The ad portrays cats as "street cats" coming in for revenge having been denied that evolutionary ability to open the fridge door to get the milk. This explains the decrease in Clean and the large increase for Greedy. The increase in Loyal is also representative of the lovable rogue character of the group despite his vengeful intentions he still earns our affection.

We can see that the largest increase for Cat attributes was Greedy, which reflects the theme of the ad where cats are portrayed as devious. This is also reflected by the results of the questions that we asked at the end of the study where 75% or participants thought that cats where portrayed as devious.

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We can see the power of the implicit response test in understanding the concepts & ideas (attributes) that are associated with brands, themes, experiences and products.

At both a conscious and non-conscious level we were able to capture the view of respondents formed after watching an advert where the devious nature of cats was a main theme.

However at a non-conscious (implicit) level we were able record and quantify changes in key attributes that form and shape the respondent's feelings toward the subject matter in the advert. This offers us a much richer interpretation of the effectiveness of the advert.

The changes in associations in the mind of consumers as a result of experiences or interaction with a brand drive many of the actions taken when future decisions are made. It is imperative to capture and understand the non-conscious responses of your audience.

Contact Us to find out more about running implicit response tests for your brand, product, experience or advertisement.