Day 561: Neuromarketing and Psychology

This continues from my previous post here.

Let's move on to neuromarketing and where it came from.

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state, also known as biometrics, including (heart rate and respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it. Neuromarketing research raised interest for both academic and business side. In fact, certain companies, particularly those with large-scale goals, have invested in their own laboratories, science personnel and / or partnerships with academia. [1]
Companies such as Google, CBS, and Frito-Lay amongst others have used neuromarketing research services to measure consumer thoughts on their advertisements or products.[2]

The neuromarketing concept

The neuromarketing concept was developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990. The technology is based on a model whereby the major thinking part of human activity (over 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. For this reason, the perception technologists of the market are very tempted to learn the techniques of effective manipulation of the subconscious brain activity. The main reason is to inspire the desired reaction in person’s perception as deeply as possible.


Some consumer advocate organizations, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, have criticized neuromarketing’s potentially invasive technology. Jeff Chester, the executive director of the organization, claims that neuromarketing is “having an effect on individuals that individuals are not informed about." Further, he claims that though there has not historically been regulation on adult advertising due to adults having defense mechanisms to discern what is true and untrue, that it should now be regulated “if the advertising is now purposely designed to bypass those rational defenses . . . protecting advertising speech in the marketplace has to be questioned."[2]
Joseph Turow, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, dismisses neuromarketing as another reincarnation of gimmicky attempts for advertisers to find non-traditional approaches toward gathering consumer opinion. He is quoted in saying, "There has always been a holy grail in advertising to try to reach people in a hypodermic way. Major corporations and research firms are jumping on the neuromarketing bandwagon, because they are desperate for any novel technique to help them break through all the marketing clutter. ‘It’s as much about the nature of the industry and the anxiety roiling through the system as it is about anything else."[9]
Advocates nonetheless argue that society benefits from neuromarketing innovations. German neurobiologist Kai-Markus Müller promotes a neuromarketing variant, "neuropricing," that uses data from brain scans to help companies identify the highest prices consumers will pay. Müller says "everyone wins with this method," because brain-tested prices enable firms to increase profits, thus increasing prospects for survival during economic recession. [10]

As you can see from above, neuromarketing has nothing to do with people and everything to do with profit. It seems out of place then that psychology developed the concept and turned it into a working model of investigating how to better exploit consumers (AKA "us").

In my studies of psychology I learned about many theories and "could be's". I learned that no one really knows how much of anything in the human psyche works for sure, nor of how society functions in part or as a whole - like I said, there are only theories. The way that science is now, it is unlikely that anyone will ever be able to prove many (or any) of the theories. I also learned that while parts of psychology are used to empower people, there are also other aspects that disempower them. What I mean by empower is that it can be used to assist someone to stop a harmful habit and what I mean by disempower is that it can validate a person's self beliefs in a way that does not allow them to take responsibility for themselves. This tendency, along with some of the counter intuitive uses of the profession have led me to determine that a serious overhaul of standards and principles is required.

Psychology should be used to help people become more self aware - especially of the fact that everyone is responsible for their own experiences 100% of the time, whether they are emotional, thought based, direction in life and so on. Currently psychology still encourages people to believe that the ability to change is not in their hands and that their nature is set in stone - this is something that is simply assumed because no one wants to prove that anyone can change, that would lead to the realisation that we all must change - and many people simply do not want to. The fact that psychology designed and improves neuromarketing is appalling. It goes against the very principles that psychology should stand for like awareness, self education, self investigation, practical living. Neuromarketing is the devious use of peoples' ignorance to increase profits for whomsoever uses it - this is unacceptable.

If we cannot see any benefit to our lives in the larger scheme of things then it is safe to say that it is not in our collective best interest but in the best interests of the companies profiting from our ignorance and from psychology's lack of integrity.