Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain Scans Predict When People Will Buy Products

Date:
January 4, 2007
Source:
Carnegie Mellon University
Summary:
For the first time, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine what parts of the brain are active when people consider whether to purchase a product and to predict whether or not they ultimately choose to buy the product. The study appears in the journal Neuron and was co-authored by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

For the first time, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine what parts of the brain are active when people consider whether to purchase a product and to predict whether or not they ultimately choose to buy the product. The study appears in the journal Neuron and was co-authored by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

This paper is the latest from the emerging field of neuroeconomics, which investigates the mental and neural processes that drive economic decision-making. The results could have a profound impact on economic theory, because the decision of whether to purchase a product is the most basic and pervasive economic behavior.

Previous imaging studies have found that separate parts of the brain are activated when people are confronted with financial gains versus financial losses. The authors of this latest study believed that distinct brain regions would be activated when people were presented with products they wish to purchase (representing a potential gain) and when they were presented with those products' prices (representing a potential loss). The researchers wanted to see if they could then use this information to predict when a person would decide to buy a product, and when they would pass it up.

Twenty-six adults participated in the study, in which they were given $20 to spend on a series of products that would be shipped to them. If they made no purchases, they would be able to keep the money. The products and their prices appeared on a computer screen that the participants viewed while lying in an fMRI scanner. The researchers found that when the participants were presented with the products, a subcortal brain region known as the nucleus accumbens that is associated with the anticipation of pleasure was activated. When the subjects were presented with prices that were excessive, two things happened: the brain region known as the insula was activated and a part of the brain associated with balancing gains versus losses -- the medial prefrontal cortex -- was deactivated.

Furthermore, by studying which regions were activated, the authors were able to successfully predict whether the study participants would decide to purchase each item. Activations of the regions associated with product preference and with weighing gains and losses indicated that a person would decide to purchase a product. In contrast, when the region associated with excessive prices was activated participants chose not to buy a product.

This study challenges the conventional economic account of consumer purchases, which views consumers as deciding between the immediate pleasure of making a purchase and the delayed pleasures of alternative things for which the same money could be used. The results of this paper support an alternative perspective that views consumers as trading off the immediate pleasure of making a purchase against an immediate pain: the pain of forking out the money for the item. The results can explain the growing tendency of consumers to overspend when purchasing items with credit cards instead of cash, because consumers do not immediately pay for items charged to credit cards and the "pain" of the potential loss is minimized. Economic policies designed to promote savings would thus need to take this into account. It also suggests that differences in how much people spend and save may be partly explained by differences in the degree to which they find spending money painful.

The Neuron paper was authored by Scott Rick and George Loewenstein of the Department of Social and Decisions Sciences at Carnegie Mellon; Brian Knutson and G. Elliott Wimmer of the Department of Psychology at Stanford; and Drazen Prelec at MIT's Sloan School of Management.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "Brain Scans Predict When People Will Buy Products." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103201418.htm>.
Carnegie Mellon University. (2007, January 4). Brain Scans Predict When People Will Buy Products. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103201418.htm
Carnegie Mellon University. "Brain Scans Predict When People Will Buy Products." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070103201418.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins