neuroscience

Unconscious Buying

In a fascinating study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers have shown that we make buying decisions even when we aren’t paying attention to the products, and that fMRI observation of brain activity can predict these decisions. This new work builds on previous research by Stanford’s Knutson and CMU’s Loewenstein which showed that purchase decisions could be predicted when subjects were shown explicit offers. Here’s the abstract:

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The Brain That Changes Itself

Book Review: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge

For centuries, the human brain was considered largely immutable after childhood. We were told that we had all the brain cells we’d ever get by the time we were adolescents.

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Luxury, Left Brain, Right Brain

Popular psychology simplifies the different functions of our brain hemispheres by using “left brain” to indicate analytical thinking and “right brain” to mean creativity and emotion. That may be a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s a useful shorthand. In The Luxury Strategy, authors J. N. Kapferer and V. Bastien emphasize the need for a management team that has both characteristics.

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Websites that Suck Increase Stress

We know that slow, balky, and confusing websites aren’t a good thing. Traffic metrics show this, as does conversion data. Google, whom some think of as passively indexing the web, believes quick-loading pages are essential to a good user experience. Google is, in fact, actively trying to speed up websites (and keep their search users happy) by making page load time a ranking factor. (See Barry Schwartz’s article at Search Engine Land describing Google’s Matt Cutts commentary at Pubcon.)

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Guard Your Reptilian Brain!

Every year or so, some fuzzy-thinking critic reads an article about neuromarketing, becomes extremely agitated, and tries to raise the alarm about marketers turning consumers into mind-controlled zombies. The latest push of the neuro-panic button began with an article on a site called Truthout (fresh out of truth, perhaps?). Truthout seems to be a sort of conspiracy theory haven that seeks to use “the ever-expanding power of the Internet… to spread reliable information, peaceful thought and progressive ideas throughout the world.” Here’s their take on neuromarketing:

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Neuromanagement: The Rule of Three?

Trivia question: Why were local phone numbers originally seven digits long? The answer is that in the early days of local phone service, researchers found that seven digit numbers were about as long as most people could remember without forgetting or making errors. (One oft-quoted study on the “seven” topic is The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information by George A. Miller.)

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Food, Shelter, and Big Words

Decades ago, Abraham Maslow proposed that humans had a hierarchy of needs, with food being at the most basic level of biological need and shelter one step above as part of a “safety” need. He may have been on the right track, according to new research led by Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers exposed subjects to a series of nouns while monitoring their brain activity in an fMRI machine, and recorded which areas of the subjects brain were activated by each noun.

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Sit Straight, Build Confidence

We know that making ourselves smile or frown can actually influence our mood, and now it seems that the posture we assume can affect our confidence in our own thoughts. A study by Richard Petty, who apparently is not the NASCAR driver but rather a professor at Ohio State University, demostrated the effects of sitting up straight:

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How We Decide

Book Review: How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer has been translating neuroscience into prose comprehensible by the lay reader for years, and How We Decide helps readers understand and even apply current research in the process of human decision-making.

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Are Brain Scan Findings Fishy?

Some neuroscientists have long been critical of fMRI brain scans, complaining that the technique’s colorful images may cause their data to be weighted beyond their merit. Now, two skeptical groups have published data suggesting that the way we interpret brain scans is downright fishy.

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