Neuromarketing: Ethical Implications of its Use and Potential Misuse
- First Online:
- 1.2k Downloads
Neuromarketing is an emerging field in which academic and industry research scientists employ neuroscience techniques to study marketing practices and consumer behavior. The use of neuroscience techniques, it is argued, facilitates a more direct understanding of how brain states and other physiological mechanisms are related to consumer behavior and decision making. Herein, we will articulate common ethical concerns with neuromarketing as currently practiced, focusing on the potential risks to consumers and the ethical decisions faced by companies. We argue that the most frequently raised concerns—threats to consumer autonomy, privacy, and control—do not rise to meaningful ethical issues given the current capabilities and implementation of neuromarketing research. But, we identify how potentially serious ethical issues may emerge from neuromarketing research practices in industry, which are largely proprietary and opaque. We identify steps that can mitigate associated ethical risks and thus reduce the threats to consumers. We conclude that neuromarketing has clear potential for positive impact on society and consumers, a fact rarely considered in the discussion on the ethics of neuromarketing.
KeywordsConsumer behavior Decision making Ethics Hormones fMRI Marketing Neuromarketing Neuroscience
- BBC. (2014). Facebook admits failings over emotion manipulation study. BBC News, doi: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29475019.
- Black, D. W. (2007). A review of compulsive buying disorder. World Psychiatry, 6, 14–18.Google Scholar
- Camus, M. C., Halelamien, N., Plassmann, H., Shimojo, S., O’Doherty, J., Camerer, C., et al. (2009). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the right dorsolateral preforntal cortex decreases valuations during food choices. European Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 1980–1988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Duhigg, C. (2012). How companies learn your secrets (Electronic Version). The New York Times. Retrieved Oct 1, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&.
- Grey, T., Healy, J. M., Linn, S., Rowe, J., Ruskin, G., & Villani, V. S. (2003). Commercial alert asks emory university to halt neuromarketing experiments. Retrieved Sept 29, 2014, from http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/culture/neuromarketing/commercial-alert-asks-emory-university-to-halt-neuromarketing-experiments.
- Huettel, S. A., Song, A. W., & McCarthy, G. (2014). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (3rd ed.). Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
- Kant, I. (1785/1959). Foundations of the metaphysics of morals (L. White Beck, Trans.). Indianapolis: ITT Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing Company, Inc (Original work published 1785).Google Scholar
- Keller, K. L. (2000). The brand report card. Harvard Business Review, 78, 147–157.Google Scholar
- Kelly, S. (2013). Testing drugs on the developing world. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/02/testing-drugs-on-the-developing-world/273329/#articlecomments
- Knutson, B., Adams, C. M., Fong, G. W., & Hommer, D. (2001). Anticipation of increasing monetary reward selectively recruits nucleus accumbens. The Journal of Neuroscience, 21, RC159.Google Scholar
- Lichters, M., Brunnlieb, C., Nave, G., Sarstedt, M., & Vogt, B. (2015). The influence of serotonin deficiency on choice deferral and the compromise effect. Journal of Marketing Research. doi:10.1509/jmr.14.0482
- Meissner, M., Musalem, A., & Huber, J. (2015). Eye tracking reveals processes that enable conjoint choices to become increasingly efficient with practice. Journal of Marketing Research. doi:10.1509/jmr.13.0467
- Rogers, S. (1992). How a publicity blitz created the myth of subliminal advertising. Public Relations Quarterly, 37, 12–17.Google Scholar
- Ryan, K. J., Brady, J. V., Cooke, R. E., Height, D. I., Jonsen, A. R., King, P., et al. (1979). The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. In H. a. H. Services (Ed.). Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- Schultheiss, O. C., & Stanton, S. J. (2009). Assessment of salivary hormones. In E. Harmon-Jones & J. S. Beer (Eds.), Methods in social neuroscience (pp. 17–44). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar