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Posts Tagged ‘marketing

Why Fondness Makes Us Poor Judges, But Dislike Is Spot-on

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How good are we at guessing other people’s likes and dislikes? Ever bring a favorite dish to a potluck — only to watch it go uneaten? Or receive an unwelcome shock when a cherished product is discontinued for lack of sales? People have the tendency to assume the whole world likes what we like, reveals new research from the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. However, we don’t generalize the same way when it comes to things we hate.

Ambiguity – Look twice, as in Magic-Eye-Images, so in buying decisions…

“The degree of false consensus depends on whether a person likes or dislikes an item,” explain Andrew D. Gershoff (University of Michigan), Ashesh Mukherjee (McGill University), and Anirban Mukhopadhyay (University of Michigan).

Participants in one study were asked to choose a movie they like. They were then asked to guess what percentage of their peers liked the movie as well. On average, people estimated that 51.2 percent of other people also liked the movie, a significant overestimate. They also estimated that only 18.2 percent of people, on average, disliked it — a reflection of the belief that more people agree with us than disagree.

In contrast, when asked to choose a movie they dislike and make the same estimate, participants were less self-centered: they thought people would agree and disagree with their opinion in roughly the same numbers.

As the researchers explain, “This finding arises from a deeper truth about the human mind, namely that things we like are seen to contain primarily good characteristics, while things we dislike are seen to contain a mix of bad, neutral, or good characteristics.”

We might even like everything about an item — except for one unforgivable, deal-breaking trait.

“This difference leads us to make more exaggerated predictions that people like the same things we do, compared to predictions that people will dislike the same things that we dislike,” the researchers add.

Another study of ice cream sundaes found that those who liked a certain flavor combination — say, mint ice cream with walnuts and hot fudge — overestimated that people would share their fondness for the sundae by 9.9 percent. Those who disliked it only overestimated that people would share their repulsion by 0.8 percent.

They conclude: “Our research indicates that decision-makers in such situations need to be highly sensitive to the danger of over-projecting their own likes, more so than their own dislikes.”

JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. • Vol. 33 • March 2007
All rights reserved. 0093-5301/2007/3304-0009$10.00

DOI: 10.1086/510223

Few Ways to Love, but Many Ways to Hate: Attribute Ambiguity and the Positivity Effect in Agent Evaluation

Andrew D. Gershoff

Ashesh Mukherjee

Anirban Mukhopadhyay

Recent research has identified a positivity effect in consumers’ evaluations of agents, such as friends and professional critics, who provide word-of-mouth evaluations and recommendations. Specifically, agreement with an agent on previously loved alternatives is perceived as more diagnostic of the agent’s suitability than agreement on previously hated alternatives. This article argues that the positivity effect arises from greater ambiguity about attribute ratings of hated versus loved alternatives. Three studies support this by showing that the effect is moderated by the number of attributes, the number of alternatives, and the revelation of an agent’s attribute ratings, and is mediated by attribute ambiguity.

Written by huehueteotl

April 23, 2008 at 9:04 am

Boots No. 1 Dating Back To Cleopatra?

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 Marketers and critics alike have assumed that branding began in the West with the Industrial Revolution. But a pioneering new study in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology finds that attachment to brands far predates modern capitalism, and indeed modern Western society.  Hence author David Wengrow explains: “… combined use of seals and standardized packaging played a central role in the emergence of the world’s first large-scale economies. Comparative analysis of more recent branding practices suggests that these functions may necessarily be intertwined, since the enchanting properties of branded commodities are grounded in guarantees of quality, which in turn are based—paradoxically—upon the disenchantment of production.”
He thus challenges the widespread assumption that branding did not become an important force in social and economic life until the Industrial Revolution. Wengrow presents compelling evidence that labels on ancient containers, which have long been assumed to be simple identifiers, as well as practices surrounding the production and distribution of commodities, actually functioned as branding strategies. Furthermore, these strategies have deep cultural origins and cognitive foundations, beginning in the civilizations of Egypt and Iraq thousands of years ago.

Branding became necessary when large-scale economies started mass-producing commodities such as alcoholic drinks, cosmetics and textiles. Ancient societies not only imposed strict forms of quality control over these commodities, but as today they needed to convey value to the consumer. Wengrow finds that commodities in any complex, large society needs to pass through a “nexus of authenticity.”

Through history, these have taken the form of “the bodies of the ancestral dead, the gods, heads of state, secular business gurus, media celebrities, or that core fetish of post-modernity, the body of the sovereign consumer citizen in the act of self-fashioning.” Although capitalism and branding find in each other a perfect complement, they have distinct origins. Wengrow shows that branding has for millennia filled a deep-seated need for us humans to find value in the goods that we consume.

Egyptian perfume bottle. Could product branding have begun in ancient Egypt? (Credit: iStockphoto)
Current Anthropology Volume 49, Number 1, February 2008 © 2008 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.0011-3204/2008/4901-0001 DOI: 10.1086/523676

Prehistories of Commodity Branding

by David Wengrow

Commodity branding has been characterized as the distinguishing cultural move of late capitalism and is widely viewed as a historically distinctive feature of the modern global economy. The brand’s rise to prominence following the Industrial Revolution and the attendant shift of corporate enterprise towards the dissemination of image-based products have been further cited as contributing to the erosion of older forms of identity such as those based on kinship and class. However, comparisons between recent forms of branding and much earlier modes of commodity marking associated with the Urban Revolution of the fourth millennium BC suggest that systems of branding address a paradox common to all economies of scale and are therefore likely to arise (and to have arisen) under a wide range of ideological and institutional conditions, including those of sacred hierarchies and stratified states. An examination of the material and cognitive properties of sealing practices and the changing functions of seals in their transition from personal amulets to a means of labeling mass-produced goods helps to unpack the interlocking (pre)histories of quality control, authenticity, and ownership that make up the modern brand.

Written by huehueteotl

February 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Prior Experience Shapes How Consumers Compute New Information

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Over time, consumers develop a set of cues that we then use to make inferences about products, such as “all French restaurants have great service” or “more expensive candles smell better.” However, this set of predictable beliefs can make it difficult for us to learn and recognize other real, positive qualities that are indicated by the same cues, reveals a new study.

“Once people learned that a cue predicted an outcome, they became less likely to learn about this very same cue with respect to a different outcome,” write Marcus Cunha Jr. (University of Washington), Chris Janiszewski, and Juliano Laran (both University of Florida). “The implication is that the learning system is designed to discourage single cue–multiple outcome learning.”

In the pilot study of a series of five experiments, the researchers used cheese tasting to explore the development of predictive knowledge structures, a phenomenon also known as “protection of prior learning.” They first had participants taste an orange rind Raclette cheese that was mild and creamy, and a purple rind Drunken Goat cheese that was much stronger tasting and dry. They then had participants rate the cheeses on a scale of mild to strong to induce the association with an orange rind and a mild flavored cheese. A control group also tasted two different types of cheese but did not rate them.

To test whether an association between an orange rind and mild flavor would make it more difficult for consumers to gauge other existing qualities, such as texture, tasters were then asked to rate the creaminess of a mild, creamy Port Salut with an orange rind and a dry Manchego with no rind. Surprisingly, participants were less likely than the control group to expect the second orange rind cheese to be creamy, even though the first one had also been creamy. As the researchers explain, “Learning that the orange rind predicted a difference in the strength of flavor . . . attenuated the learning that the orange rind predicted creaminess.”

This research has important implications for marketers, policy makers and consumers. For instance, the researchers point to Merck’s introduction of the cholesterol-lowering drug Simvastatin under the brand name Zocor. Recently, researchers found that Simvastatin may be also effective at preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This opportunity creates a branding dilemma for Merck,” the researchers write. “Our findings suggest that consumers may be slower to learn the Alzheimer’s relief association to [Zocor] than to a new brand name.”

Similarly, from a public policy standpoint, the results suggest that people may be resistant to adopt new health and safety standards when information conflicts with prior learning. Beyond creating awareness, successful campaigns might present new information in a way that does not utilize attributes already associated with another outcome.

Journal of Consumer Research, Page 000–000, DOI: 10.1086/523293 Electronically published October 10, 2007

Marcus Cunha Jr. Chris Janiszewski Juliano Laran, John Deighton served as editor and Susan Broniarczyk served as associate editor for this article.
As a product category evolves, consumers have the opportunity to learn a series of feature-benefit associations. Initially, consumers learn that some features predict a critical benefit, whereas other features do not. Subsequently, consumers have the opportunity to assess if previously predictive features, or novel features, predict new product benefits. Surprisingly, later learning is characterized by attenuated learning about previously predictive features relative to novel features. This tendency to ignore previously predictive features is consistent with a desire to protect prior learning.

Written by huehueteotl

February 18, 2008 at 11:28 am

Posted in Psychology

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Da Vinci Sells: Ad Success – Add Art

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Advertisers looking to add appeal to their products need to look no farther than their nearest art museum, according to a new University of Georgia study that finds that even a fleeting exposure to art makes consumers evaluate products more positively.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research, represents a pioneering attempt to systematically demonstrate how visual art influences consumer perceptions. The two authors, Henrik Hagtvedt and Vanessa M. Patrick, affirm that science may be used to increase our understanding of art.

“Art has connotations of excellence, luxury and sophistication that spill over onto products with which the art is associated,” said Patrick, an assistant professor at the UGA Terry College of Business. “We call this the ‘art infusion effect.’ It does not stem from the content of the artwork, that is, what is depicted in the artwork, but from general connotations of art itself.”

“Visual art has historically been used as a tool for persuasion,” said Hagtvedt, who is himself a critically acclaimed visual artist. “It has been used to sell everything from religion to politics to spaghetti sauce to the artist’s image. It’s about time we develop a scientific basis to understand how it actually works. It appears that for the average viewer a prototypical artwork represents a quest for excellence that goes beyond anything strictly necessary. An association with fine art therefore gives products an aura of luxury.”

The two researchers set out to investigate the art infusion phenomenon with three studies. First, they posed as waiters at a local restaurant and showed 100 patrons sets of silverware in black velvet boxes. The top of the box had either a print of Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night or a photograph of a similar scene. Even after just a brief exposure to one of the images, the diners rated the silverware in the box with art as more luxurious.

The second study revealed that a relatively unfamiliar artwork can successfully compete with a famous celebrity in conveying a luxury appeal. The third study demonstrated that the content of the specific artwork is not necessarily important, but that general connotations of art matter. Indeed, even a painting of a burning building on the face of a soap dispenser resulted in the soap dispenser being perceived as luxurious.

“Consumers are constantly being bombarded by advertising messages, and the fact that something works despite the noise that exists in a retail environment is very valuable for marketers,” said Patrick. “This works. We’ve tried it both in the laboratory and in a real-world setting.”

“The art infusion effect is based on the human ability to recognize the creativity and skill involved in artistic expression,” said Hagtvedt. “It’s a universal phenomenon, and it stands out, even with all the stimuli competing for attention in contemporary society.”

The researchers add that because this effect of art is independent of its content, art is a uniquely powerful marketing tool. Celebrities, another common tool used in advertising, may appeal to only certain segments of the population, and their popularity may depend on the latest movie or fashion shoot. Art, on the other hand, is universally recognized and timeless. The study results also show that the art infusion effect, contrary to popular wisdom, even works for everyday, non-luxury items.

“The products that we used in our studies were relatively ordinary items such as silverware, soap dispensers and bathroom fixtures – clearly not product categories you would typically associate with art, indicating the possibility of a broad use of art in marketing,” said Patrick.

Journal of Marketing Research Forthcoming Articles

Art Infusion – The Influence of Visual Art on the Perception and Evaluation of Consumer Products
Henrik Hagtvedt, Vanessa M. Patrick
Full Text

In this research the authors investigate the phenomenon of art infusion, in which the presence of visual art has a favorable influence on the evaluation of consumer products via a contentindependent spillover of luxury perceptions. In three studies the authors demonstrate the art infusion phenomenon in both real-world and controlled environments, using a variety of stimuli, in the contexts of packaging, advertising, and product design.

Written by huehueteotl

February 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

King Napster Or The Seven-year War On Downloading Music

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A fascinating new paper from the Journal of Consumer Research investigates the seven-year war on music downloading that unfolded among corporate music executives and music downloaders. Markus Giesler (York University) uses a performance-ethnography approach, studying the music marketplace as a cultural stage on which consumers and producers interact as dramatic players to reach their conflicting goals.

As a record producer during Napster’s emergence in the late ’90s, Giesler had first hand experience dealing with several issues: How does market evolution change price-value relationships for music? Will this fundamentally new way of music consumption herald the end of the music market? Was there a common pattern of historical transformation at work that, once revealed, could be used to better understand other instances of market evolution?

To answer these questions, he sought to identify both the fundamental cultural tensions that drive the performances of downloaders and producers on the market stage, and the dramatic plot structure that integrates the war on music downloading into a historical narrative of market evolution.

“These findings yield some novel theoretical insights for the study of market system dynamics,” Giesler says. “This study has argued for more attention to the idea that markets are staged compromises between sharing and owning.”

Giesler argues that, between 1999 and 2006, the music market moved through a process of structural change that involved much unusual drama. The drama unfolded over an enduring cultural tension: the conflict between utilitarian and possessive ideals as they applied to music as a cultural resource. These ideals influenced the behavior and statements of music consumers and producers.

Giesler then divides this dramatic conflict into four historical acts: In the first act, a breach was made visible by the violation of market norms (the emergence of Napster). The second act was a crisis or extension of the breach, during which each of the antagonists took a more radical stance towards the other camp and the breach widened publicly (the expansion of music downloading). The corporate response led to the third act, the application of redressive mechanisms to restore normalcy (the music industry’s anti-downloading campaign and the prosecution of individual downloaders). The fourth act was a reintegration (the commercialization of downloading through Apple’s iTunes and other corporate players).

“The profound implication here is that marketplace dramas can take place in every market–from music to organic food. The cast changes every time, but the story is more or less the same. These findings not only can be used to understand and predict other instances of market evolution; they also reveal the stuff that heroes are made of and the reasons why some of them fail,” Giesler explains.

Giesler points out that managers, consumers, and public policy makers can use the idea of marketplace drama to better understand and manage similar market conflicts. For example, the idea of markets as dramatically acquired compromises between sharing and owning informs the ongoing war between the Youtube community and the motion picture industry. Marketplace drama can also be used to better understand and explain the commercial cooptation and ideological reclaiming of market countercultures such as the organic food movement.

 Markus Giesler: 

“Conflict and Compromise: Drama in Marketplace Evolution.” 

How do markets change? Findings from a 7-year longitudinal processual investigation of consumer performances in the war on music downloading suggest markets in the cultural creative sphere (those organizing the exchange of intellectual
goods such as music, movies, software, and the written word) evolve through stages of perpetual structural instability. Each stage addresses an enduring cultural tension between countervailing utilitarian and possessive ideals. Grounded anthropology and consumer behavior, I illustrate this historical dynamic through process of marketplace drama, a fourfold sequence of performed conflict opposing groups of consumers and producers. Implications for theorizing onmarket system dynamics and the consumption of performance are offered.

Written by huehueteotl

February 15, 2008 at 10:08 am

Posted in Current Affairs

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Even Momentary Sadness Increases Spending

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How you are feeling has an impact on your routine economic transactions, whether you’re aware of this effect or not. In a new study that links contemporary science with the classic philosophy of William James, a research team finds that people feeling sad and self-focused spend more money to acquire the same commodities than those in a neutral emotional state.

The new study follows up on earlier research that established a connection between sadness and buying. Researchers Cynthia Cryder (Carnegie Mellon University), Jennifer Lerner (Harvard University), James J. Gross (Stanford University), and Ronald E. Dahl (University of Pittsburgh) have now discovered that heightened self-focus drives the connection — a finding that expands understanding of consumer behavior and, more broadly, the impact of emotions on decision-making.

In the experiment, participants viewed either a sad video clip or one devoid of human emotion. Afterward, participants could purchase an ordinary commodity, such as a water bottle, at various prices. Participants randomly assigned to the sad condition offered almost 300% more money to buy the product than “neutral” participants. Notably, participants in the sadness condition typically insist, incorrectly, that the emotional content of the film clip did not carry over to affect their spending.

Self-focus helps to explain the spending differences between the two groups. Among participants “primed” to feel sad, those who were highly self-focused paid more than those low in self-focus. Notably, sadness tends to increase self-focus, making the increased spending prompted by sadness difficult to avoid.

Why might a combination of sadness and self-focus lead people to spend more money? First, sadness and self-focus cause one to devalue both one’s sense of self and one’s current possessions. Second, this devaluation increases a person’s willingness to pay more for new material goods, presumably to enhance sense of self.

Notably, the “misery is not miserly” effect may be even more dramatic in real life, as the low-intensity sadness evoked in the experiment likely underestimates the power of intense sadness on spending behavior. The effect could extend to domains beyond purchasing decisions, causing people to engage in increased stock trading, for example, or even to seek new relationships– without conscious awareness that they are being driven by their emotions.

The study is an early step toward uncovering the hidden impact of different, fluctuating, and what would otherwise seem irrelevant emotions on our day-to-day decisions.

The article, that is available at several websites, will be published in the June 2008 edition of Psychological Science and will be presented at the Society for Social and Personality Psychology’s Annual Meeting on Feb. 9.:

Carnegie Mellon:

Lerner Lab:

Cryder, C. E., Lerner, J. S., Gross, J. J., & Dahl, R. E. (in press).
Misery is not miserly: Sad and self-focused individuals spend more.
Psychological Science
Misery is not miserly: sadness increases the amount of money decision makers give up to acquire a commodity (Lerner, Small, & Loewenstein, 2004). The present research investigated when and why the “misery-is-not-miserly” effect occurs. Drawing on William James’s (1890) concept of the material self, we tested a model specifying relationships among sadness, selffocus, and the amount of money decision makers spend. Consistent with our Jamesian hypothesis, results revealed that self-focus both moderates and mediates the effect of sadness on spending. Results were consistent across males and females. Because the study used real
commodities and real money, results hold implications for everyday decisions. They also hold implications for theoretical development. Economic theories of spending may benefit from incorporating psychological theories – specifically theories of emotion and the self.

Written by huehueteotl

February 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Price Tag Can Change The Way People Experience Wine

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… a study shows for 11 californian male Caltech graduate students. Californians cannot tell price from taste, when it comes to whine. Certain californian wines do taste like that. And the old adage that you get what you pay for really seems then most true.

In what will be music to the ears of marketers, the old adage that you get what you pay for really is true when it comes to that most ephemeral of products: bottled wine.

If a person is told he or she is tasting two different wines–and that one costs $5 and the other $45 when they are, in fact, the same wine–the part of the brain that experiences pleasure will become more active when the drinker thinks he or she is enjoying the more expensive vintage. (Credit: iStockphoto/Joey Nelson)

According to researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology, if a person is told he or she is tasting two different wines—and that one costs $5 and the other $45 when they are, in fact, the same wine—the part of the brain that experiences pleasure will become more active when the drinker thinks he or she is enjoying the more expensive vintage.

“What we document is that price is not just about inferences of quality, but it can actually affect real quality,” said Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing who co-authored a paper titled “Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness,” published online Jan. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “So, in essence, [price] is changing people’s experiences with a product and, therefore, the outcomes from consuming this product.”

Shiv, an expert in how emotion affects decision-making, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to conduct the study with co-authors Hilke Plassmann, a former Stanford postdoctoral researcher; Antonio Rangel, a former Stanford economist; and psychologist John O’Doherty. (Both Plassmann and Rangel are now at Caltech.) Although researchers have used fMRI scans in recent years to gauge brain activity, the study is one of the first to test subjects as they swallow liquid—in this case, wine—through a pump attached to their mouths, a tricky complication because the scanner requires people to lie very still as it measures blood flow in the brain.

According to Shiv, a basic assumption in economics is that a person’s “experienced pleasantness” (EP) from consuming a product depends only on its intrinsic properties and the individual’s thirst. However, marketers try to influence this experience by changing a drink’s external properties, such as its price. “This type of influence is valuable for companies, because EP serves as a learning signal that is used by the brain to guide future choices,” the paper says. Contrary to this basic assumption, several studies have shown that marketing can influence how people value goods. For example, Shiv has shown that people who paid a higher price for an energy drink, such as Red Bull, were able to solve more brain teasers than those who paid a discounted price for the same product.

Despite the pervasive influence of marketing, very little is known about how neural mechanisms affect decision-making, the researchers said. “Here, we propose a mechanism though which marketing actions can affect decision-making,” they write. “We hypothesized that changes in the price of a product can influence neural computations associated with EP.” Because perceptions about quality are positively correlated with price, the scholars argued that someone might expect an expensive wine to taste better than a cheaper one. Their hypothesis went further, stipulating that a person’s anticipated experience would prompt higher activity in the part of the brain that experiences pleasure, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, or mOFC, in the forehead.

Shiv, a native of India, said he decided to study wine because so many people, especially in the Golden State, are crazy about it. “I’m just fascinated with wine,” he said. “It has always amused me how much time and effort people put into this hobby. I couldn’t understand it until I moved to California and started appreciating the whole thing. But, in the back of my mind, the price variation in wines has always puzzled me. You can go from spending $4 to $200 to $300 and up a bottle. Why are people going for that? Some are trying to show off, but most people are not. They are very serious about it, and they think that the more expensive it is, the better it is. That has always befuddled me. Is it really that people are getting more pleasure from it? Or do they just think so?”

The study

The researchers recruited 11 male Caltech graduate students who said they liked and occasionally drank red wine. The subjects were told that they would be trying five different Cabernet Sauvignons, identified by price, to study the effect of sampling time on flavor. In fact, only three wines were used—two were given twice. The first wine was identified by its real bottle price of $5 and by a fake $45 price tag. The second wine was marked with its actual $90 price and by a fictitious $10 tag. The third wine, which was used to distract the participants, was marked with its correct $35 price. A tasteless water was also given in between wine samples to rinse the subjects’ mouths. The wines were given in random order, and the students were asked to focus on flavor and how much they enjoyed each sample.


The participants said they could taste five different wines, even though there were only three, and added that the wines identified as more expensive tasted better. The researchers found that an increase in the perceived price of a wine did lead to increased activity in the mOFC because of an associated increase in taste expectation. Shiv said he expects enophiles will challenge the results, since his subjects were not professional connoisseurs. “Will these findings replicate among experts?” he asked. “We don’t know, but my speculation is that, yes, they will. I expect that the enophiles will show more of these effects, because they really care about it.”

According to Shiv, the emotional and hedonic areas of the brain could be fundamental to making good decisions because they serve as a navigational device. “The brain is super-efficient,” he said. “There seems to be this perfect overlap in one part of the brain between what happens in real time and what happens when people anticipate something. It’s almost acting as a GPS system. This seems to be the navigational device that helps us learn what is the right thing to do the next time around.”

Published online before print January 14, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0706929105
PNAS | January 22, 2008 | vol. 105 | no. 3 | 1050-1054
Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness
Hilke Plassmann*, John O’Doherty*, Baba Shiv and Antonio Rangel*

*Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, MC 228-77, Pasadena, CA 91125; and Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, 518 Memorial Way, Littlefield L383, Stanford, CA94305

Edited by Leslie G. Ungerleider, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and approved December 3, 2007 (received for review July 24, 2007)

Despite the importance and pervasiveness of marketing, almost nothing is known about the neural mechanisms through which it affects decisions made by individuals. We propose that marketing actions, such as changes in the price of a product, can affect neural representations of experienced pleasantness. We tested this hypothesis by scanning human subjects using functional MRI while they tasted wines that, contrary to reality, they believed to be different and sold at different prices. Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. The paper provides evidence for the ability of marketing actions to modulate neural correlates of experienced pleasantness and for the mechanisms through which the effect operates.

Written by huehueteotl

January 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm