McClure SM, Li J, Tomlin D, Cypert KS, Montague LM, Montague PR. Neural correlates of behavioral preference for culturally familiar drinks. Neuron. 2004 Oct 14; 44(2): 379-87.
Department of Neuroscience, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, 1 Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030 USA.
Coca-Cola((R)) (Coke((R))) and Pepsi((R)) are nearly identical in chemical composition, yet humans routinely display strong subjective preferences for one or the other. This simple observation raises the important question of how cultural messages combine with content to shape our perceptions; even to the point of modifying behavioral preferences for a primary reward like a sugared drink. We delivered Coke and Pepsi to human subjects in behavioral taste tests and also in passive experiments carried out during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Two conditions were examined: (1) anonymous delivery of Coke and Pepsi and (2) brand-cued delivery of Coke and Pepsi. For the anonymous task, we report a consistent neural response in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that correlated with subjects' behavioral preferences for these beverages. In the brand-cued experiment, brand knowledge for one of the drinks had a dramatic influence on expressed behavioral preferences and on the measured brain responses.
PMID: 15473974 [PubMed - in process]
Today's New York Times Science section includes a look at this study and what so-called "neuromarketing" applications might develop.
If Your Brain Has a 'Buy Button,' What Pushes It?[ ... Read the full article ... ] (free registration required)
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE
New York Times
19 October 2004
Knowing what brand you are buying can influence your preferences by commandeering brain circuits involved with memory, decision making and self-image, researchers have found.
When researchers monitored brain scans of 67 people who were given a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, each soft drink lit up the brain's reward system, and the participants were evenly split as to which drink they preferred. But when the same people were told what they were drinking, activity in a different set of brain regions linked to brand loyalty overrode their original preferences. Three out of four said that they preferred Coca-Cola.
The study, published in the Oct. 14 issue of the journal Neuron, is the first to explore how cultural messages penetrate the human brain and shape personal preferences.
Circulating in draft form over the last year, the study has been widely discussed by neuroscientists and advertisers, as well as people who worry about the power of commercials in determining consumer behavior.
At issue is whether marketers can exploit advances in brain science to make more effective commercials. Is there a "buy button" in the brain?