All shopped out?

Science and Consciousness Review has a short but interesting piece by neuroscientist Bernard Baars on recent findings on the neuroscience of buying.

An fMRI brain-scanning study published earlier this year in science journal Neuron [pdf] reported that when someone was making a decision to buy something or not, the brain activity could be reliably tracked through the buying process.

Crucially, when the product was first presented, activity in the nucleus accumbens was strongest. This area is often typecast as the ‘pleasure centre’ of the brain.

Later, other areas in the brain seemed to inhibit the nucleus accumbens when other factors, such as price, were considered to override the desire to buy.

However, Baars notes that there are other interpretations of the data as the method for brain scanning, fMRI, only gives an indirect measure of brain activity.

For example, the brain activity could be equally related to attention or anxiety.

This is a typical problem with new findings in cognitive neuroscience. With potentially important findings, much later work will try and determine to what extent these other factors are involved.

Link to SciCon Review article ‘Shopping Centers in the Brain’.
Link to SciAm write-up of original study.
pdf of full-text of scientific paper.

2 thoughts on “All shopped out?”

  1. I blogged the same Knutson et al paper a few days back, with a different angle (link in my nick). I can’t help but wonder how neuroscience will inform economic theory. No matter what brain areas mediate buying behaviour, it’s not like companies will be able to scan consumers’ brains and based on this decide which strategy to use. I’m not sure how much measures of neural activation on the micro level will aid our understanding on the huge group processes involved in an economy.

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