Consumer neuroscience: an overview of an emerging discipline with implications for consumer policy

Consumer Neuroscience – Überblick über einen neuen transdisziplinären Ansatz mit verbraucherpolitischen Implikationen

Abstract

In recent years, interest in the integration and application of neuroscientific theories, concepts, findings and methods to the research discipline of consumer behavior has been increasing. The sub-discipline of consumer neuroscience that has resulted from that interest belongs to the innovative approach of neuroeconomics. Consumer neuroscience investigates problems of consumption and marketing through methods and findings from neuroscience. Conventional research in consumer behavior and marketing necessarily looked at the human organism as being a “black box” which cannot be assessed directly, or physiologically. This was a time when research mainly used theoretical constructs to interpret these bodily processes and resulting behavior. More recently, however, modern techniques and methods in neuroscience have facilitated a far more direct look into the “black box” of the organism as the basis for the sub-discipline of consumer neuroscience. Consumer neuroscience, therefore, can significantly benefit research in the field of consumer behavior, particularly in the attempt to better understand human behavior in decision-making processes. Although consumer neuroscience is a fledgling discipline, it constitutes a complementing advancement toward more comprehensive testing and expansion of theory. Against this background, the primary goal of the paper is to provide an overview of methods, findings, and implications of selected studies in consumer neuroscience. Furthermore, we integrate aspects of consumer policy and neuroethics, discussing the possible implications of these insights for consumer protection.

Zusammenfassung

In den letzten Jahren konnte eine sich verstärkende Integration neurowissenschaftlicher Theorien, Konzepte, Erkenntnisse und Methoden in die Konsumentenverhaltensforschung beobachtet werden. Die damit angesprochene Consumer Neuroscience ist ein Teilgebiet der Neuroökonomik und untersucht konsum- und marketingrelevante Probleme mit Methoden und Erkenntnissen der Hirnforschung. Die klassische Konsumentenverhaltens- und Marketingforschung betrachtete den menschlichen Organismus notgedrungen als eine „Black-Box”, in welche kein direkter Einblick möglich ist. Stattdessen nutzte man hauptsächlich theoretische Konstrukte, um latente Prozesse und die mit ihnen verbundenen Verhaltensweisen beschreiben und erklären zu können. Ein direkterer Blick in die „Black-Box” des Organismus wird nun mit Hilfe moderner Techniken und Methoden der Hirnforschung möglich, die auf dem Gebiet Consumer Neuroscience zum Einsatz kommen. Vor diesem Hintergrund werden in vorliegendem Beitrag ausgewählte Methoden und Ergebnisse aus dem Bereich Consumer Neuroscience vorgestellt. Abschließend werden verbraucherpolitische und neuro-ethische Aspekte integriert und mögliche Implikationen dieser Erkenntnisse für die Verbraucherpolitik diskutiert.

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Kenning, P., Linzmajer, M. Consumer neuroscience: an overview of an emerging discipline with implications for consumer policy. J. Verbr. Lebensm. 6, 111–125 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00003-010-0652-5

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Keywords

  • Consumer neuroscience
  • Neuromarketing
  • Neuroethics
  • Consumer policy