Consumer Neuroscience: Evolution and Commercial Applications

Consumer Neuroscience: Evolution and Commercial Applications

Kimberly Rose Clark (Dartmouth College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3126-6.ch010
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Consumer neuroscience is a quickly growing discipline that harnesses both theoretical principles and applied measures from the decision and affective neurosciences, along with psychophysiology and vision research, in order to explain and predict consumption behaviors. This discipline links several subfields, including neuroeconomics, social and affective neuroscience, and neuromarketing. This emerging field comprises both direct and peripheral measures of neural processing related to consumption behaviors. Consumer neuroscience complements traditional commercial research measures such as self-report, which can often be inaccurate and biased by anticipated or recalled, but not actual, consumption behaviors. All told, consumer neuroscience represents a unique field focusing on the consumer and the innumerable factors that affect individual preferences and consumption behavior. This chapter will provide a comprehensive overview of the field's history, key measures used, case examples of academic and commercial work, and a discussion of the field's continued bright trajectory.
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Early Commercial Measurement

In the United States in 1906, Daniel Starch launched the field of advertising research through his essay titled “Advertising: Its Principles, Practices & Techniques.” This work was instrumental in developing the rationale that advertising had to be seen, read, believed, remembered, and most importantly, acted upon, to be considered effective. Building upon these ideas, polling icon George Gallup developed the concept of aided recall, in which researchers would assess memory for an ad without actually showing the ad to study participants. This technique has been adapted and continues to be used as a as a market research tool to measure the effectiveness of radio and television advertising.

Later, the 1940s through 1960s produced a different type of market research focusing on qualitative information to augment quantitative data captured from consumer recall. That is, market research in this era aimed to understand the individual consumer at a highly personal level. To this end, focus groups originated in the late 1930s at the US Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University in an attempt to determine the social and mental effects of mass communications on the general public. Focus groups have a long and colorful history in assessing consumer attitudes and intentions. For example, they were used during the Second World War to examine the effectiveness of propaganda (Collis & Hussey, 2013). Even though focus groups were highly popular, researchers were keenly aware that the consumer’s stated preferences often differed greatly from their actual behaviors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sentiment Analysis: The process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text, especially in order to determine positive, negative, or neutral attitudes associated with test element.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. This technique relies on the fact that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation are coupled. When an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region also increases.

Crowd Sourced Data: Data simultaneously collected across a group of individuals.

Facial Action Coding System (FACS): Refers to a set of facial muscle movements that correspond to a displayed emotion.

Olfactory Cues: Chemical signals received by the olfactory system that represents an incoming signal received through the nose. This allows humans and animals to smell the chemical signal given off by a physical object.

Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS): Is a non-invasive imaging method involving the quantification of chromophore concentration resolved from the measurement of near infrared (NIR) light attenuation or temporal or phasic changes.

Neuromarketing Science and Business Association: Global organization aimed to increase awareness and utility of applied neuroscience across various commercial sectors.

NMSBA: Neuromarketing Science and Business Organization.

Stand-Off Measures: Measures captured from the consumer without having to physically touch the individual’s person. Examples of stand-off measures include video and thermal cameras.

Electroencephalography (EEG): EEG is a test used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. An EEG tracks and records brain wave patterns that are highly time locked to a stimulus

Decision Making: The ability to make choices in certain and uncertain conditions.

Haptics: The use of technology that stimulates the senses of touch and motion, especially to reproduce in remote operation or computer simulation the sensations that would be felt by a user interacting directly with physical objects.

Psychonomics: The science of the laws relating the mind to the organism's internal and external environment.

Judgements: The ability to generate estimates (guesses) regarding magnitudes and probabilities.

Somatic Marker Hypothesis: Feelings in the body that are associated with emotions, such as the association of rapid heartbeat with anxiety or of nausea with disgust that strongly influence subsequent decision-making.

Empiricism: The theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Focus Groups: A demographically diverse group of people assembled to participate in a guided discussion about a particular product before it is launched, or to provide ongoing feedback on a political campaign, television series, etc.

ISDN: Interdisciplinary symposia for decision neuroscience.

Cognitive Neuroscience: The scientific field that is concerned with the study of the biological processes and aspects that underlie cognition, with a specific focus on the neural connections in the brain which are involved in mental processes.

Facial Electromyography (fEMG): Facial EMG refers to an electromyography (EMG) technique that measures muscle activity by detecting and amplifying the tiny electrical impulses that are generated by muscle fibers on the face when they contract and relax.

Skin Conductance: The psychophysiological phenomenon that the skin momentarily becomes a better conductor of electricity when either external or internal stimuli occur that are physiologically arousing.

Consumer Neuroscience: Is the combination of consumer research with modern neuroscience. The goal of the field is to find neural explanations for consumer behaviors. Unlike traditional market measures which rely on conscious recall of past experience or deliberative beliefs regarding future behaviors, consumer neuroscience relies on in-moment measures of central and peripheral nervous system processes that often occur outside of conscious awareness.

Environmental Psychology: An interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings.

Thermal Imaging: the technique of using the heat given off by an object to produce an image of it, or to locate it, or to detect changes in health or emotion associated with a given stimulus.

Emotion: A natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

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