Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Neuromarketers test thoughts

According to my scan of the news, marketers already seem to know a lot about how we think, but what if they could actually watch our brains work as they test their products?

In an experiment last year, a researcher scanned volunteers' brains as they drank samples of Coke and Pepsi. When the colas were not identified, the tasters showed no particular preference for either. But when they were shown the iconic red-and-white label, they expressed a huge preference for Coke, irrespective of which cola they were actually sampling.

Coke's logo, the scans showed, lit up areas in the brain associated with pleasure expectation in a way that Pepsi's did not. Montague's conclusion: Coke's more pervasive brand marketing affected volunteers' preferences in ways they didn't realize - even if they were normally Pepsi drinkers.

And, neuroimaging is also extending into the fields of politics and commerce. FKF Applied Research, a company that uses fMRI to study decision making, found differences in brain activity between Bush and Kerry voters when they were shown political advertisements. Leadership qualities are under study by looking at how people's brains respond to an image of someone they would be willing to follow compared with that of someone they would not.

To learn more about neuromarketing, go to TIME.


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