Ethics, Neuromarketing and Marketing Research With Children

Ethics, Neuromarketing and Marketing Research With Children

Cynthia A. Bulley (Central University, Accra, Ghana), Mahama Braimah (University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana) and Florence E. Blankson (Ghana Revenue Authority, Accra, Ghana)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRMM.2018040105
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This article describes how a new budding method opens up the avenue for debate to generate ideas and thoughts around its ethical grounding, especially with its application on children. This purpose should be addressed to ensure a pluralistic ethical approach to dealing with children as respondents in research. Relevant literature and theoretical findings on ethics, marketing research, neuromarketing and neuroethics as well as the most common and applied ethical policies are reviewed systematically and presented. Interspersed with this method is a comprehensive evaluation of current debates and cases on ethics and children. The use of research ethics regulatory and policy mechanisms and its harmonisation at different levels with other neuroethics codes could reduce unethical practices. Accordingly, the emphasis on children's protection (in terms of cognitive manipulations) with neuromarketing research should be paramount. The knowledge gained through this research should ideally facilitate the process of advancing ethical concerns to promote statutory policy in the light of neuromarketing techniques.
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Ethics can be described variously as a system, theory or principles of behaviour, an area or branch of philosophy of study concerned with morality. Morality refers to the judgement of wrong or right in doing things in general. Ethics are more self – regulatory guidelines that must be adhered to in research, some professions or any discipline. It defines the expected norms of conduct while maintaining integrity of a group or body. Ethics provide a standard of integrity in conducting research involving human subjects, animals, biological and hazardous materials, and techniques. Policies for the conduct of research offer guidelines to ensure the safety, welfare, respect and dignity of human subjects. Research ethics bodies and committees specifically have reviewed ethical issues that may arise when other participants are involved in studies. Studies that contravene ethical norms are queried, rejected outright and sometimes, legal actions are taken to deter others from such actions.

Ethics are a “sine qua non” when conducting research involving human participants. Research ethics puts an obligation on anyone conducting research to be trustworthy and responsible. The adherence to a standard or ethical norm in research promotes rigour, accountability and responsible moral values. Lapses in research ethics could lead to harm and death of human subjects/, animals or may jeopardize health and safety.

The ethical concerns of research in general, especially with children and the vulnerable, has resulted in a countless number of initiatives, institutions and associations whose main objectives are to protect, formulate standards and regulations, and ensure that strict principles are adhered to in any inquiry. Different disciplines have come up with varying perspectives on ethics of research with children. Bioethics, the ethics of social science, business research ethics, and ethics in scientific research are a few of the disciplines with on-going debate in the academic literature.

The ethical grounding of researchers especially with the emergence of neuromarketing and targeted consumer research, call for more concern and revisiting of the subject (Bargh, 2002). A considerable number of studies are done on and among children or the youth in society. Considering the fact that such groups of respondents in research by their age are at risk of exploitation and manipulation (however unintended this might be), there is a need to readdress ethical considerations in the light of the emerging neuromarketing techniques and research. Ethical issues arise when children are the subject of the research or sample of interest. Hence, there are strict ethical rules, guidelines and policies outlined for researchers to follow and apply in research projects. But the potential and current use of neuroscience to measure brain activities in neuromarketing could be a formidable technique that can be used for manipulation. Neuromarketing methods and tools have the potential to peer into the minds of consumers to predict behaviour.

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