The Situation of Perceptions – Addendum
Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 2, 2008
We just discovered an interesting blog post discussing Antonio Rangel‘s wine-tasting study described in the previous “The Situation of Perceptions” post. It’s by HealthDay reporter, Steven Reinberg, for NEWS2U Health & Wellness, and it includes some reactions to the experiment from others, including Susan Linn, whose work we’ve described before, and Situationist contributor Jon Hanson. Here is the relevant portion of Reinberg’s piece.
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There has been a belief that the pleasantness associated with a product depends solely on the product, Rangel said. “This suggests that this is not the case. The beliefs about what you are experiencing also affect how pleasant that experience is,” he said.
Rangel thinks that incorporating factors other than the product itself into the experience of that product is part of human nature. “It is something that can be exploited by marketing but has not been created by marketing,” he said.
For Rangel, neuromarketing is a scientific — not a commercial — pursuit. “We want to understand how environmental variables such as pricing affect the computations that the brain makes to make decisions,” he said.
Jon Hanson, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, said the new study spotlights the way marketing can manipulate feelings about a product to influence buying choices, “which we tend to defend as rational and reasoned.”
“This new study seems to shed some valuable light on some of the neural mechanisms behind what makes something seem attractive, flavorful, or pleasant, and may be important in providing additional evidence of just how the Herculean investments in marketing pay off by operating beneath the radar of the more conscious, reasoning components of our minds,” Hanson said.
“In addition, it may suggest one of the ways in which consumers deal with the cognitive dissonance of paying a steep price for something — ‘We enjoy our purchase, more precisely, because we paid more,’ ” he said.
Another expert sees neuromarketing as a way to understand how people think and to make marketing more efficient.
“The use of neuroscientific methods and paradigms to help answer questions of marketing theory has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the relationship between organizations and consumers,” said Nick Lee, a senior lecturer in the marketing group at the Aston Business School in Birmingham, England.
“This revolution is not necessarily about helping firms to sell more products or control the mind of the consumer but to help scholars understand how marketing works,” Lee added. “Of course, it will also enable firms to market more efficiently, hopefully reducing wasted revenues and further benefiting economic performance.”
But another expert doesn’t see neuromarketing as a benign science.
“Marketing can trump our senses,” said Susan Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Media Center of Judge Baker Children’s Center. “Using medical equipment and medical technology to help marketers do their job better is very troubling.”
Linn thinks the study findings could help marketers find new ways to manipulate consumers by pinpointing their marketing more accurately. “This is particularly troubling with children,” she said.
“The marketing industry has done a good job convincing people about their free will and that they are making logical, well-thought-out decisions about the things that they buy,” Linn said. “Studies like this suggest that, in fact, there are lots of things that influence our responses to marketing and our choices of products that are completely irrational that we might not be aware of.”
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To read the entire article, click here. To read previous posts quoting Susan Linn, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” and “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right.”