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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

 The effect of marketing on the human brain

Two Caltech researchers are investigating the effect of marketing on the human brain.

Steve Quartz, director of the school's social cognitive neuroscience laboratory, is seeking evidence in the brain of an all but indefinable quality of fashion and product branding — the subjective essence that makes an object irresistibly "cool."
Many seemingly rational decisions are reflexive snap judgments, shaped by networks of neurons acting in concert. These orchestras of cells are surprisingly malleable, readily responding to the influence of experience.

Moreover, researchers suspect that the inescapable influence of marketing does more than change minds. It may alter the brain.

Has science fiction become science fact? Last year consumer group called Commercial Alert sought a congressional investigation of neuromarketing research:

"What would happen in this country if corporate marketers and political consultants could literally peer inside our brains, and chart the neural activity that leads to our selections in the supermarket and the voting booth?" asked Gary Ruskin, the group's executive director, in a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"What if they then could trigger this neural activity by various means, so as to modify our behavior to serve their own ends?"

The political ramifications are stunning. The research has already found differences in the amygdala —- the anxiety threat detector and bell-ringer in the brain -- between Dems and reTHUGlicans. One day brain scanners, like focus groups and polling, could be a potent tool in probing voter preferences and the effects of campaign ads.

"When we start asking questions about somebody's political disposition and their brain responses, then we start making interpretations about what defines us as people," said Judy Illes, a senior research scholar at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. "That might have some potentially scary possibilities for misuse."


Blogger Phil Plasma said...

I can just imagine that there are also researchers out there who would find a way to shield themselves from just such neurological manipulation. Should such a shield leak to the general public, you'll find masses of unknowning people being pushed or pulled while those in the know will still be at least marginally independent.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous David said...

You should also keep your eye on Bright House, which has an interesting relationship with Emory University.

10:00 PM  

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