On the Ethics of Neuromarketing and Sensory Marketing

  • Charles SpenceEmail author
Part of the Advances in Neuroethics book series (AIN)


In this chapter, a number of key ethical issues associated with the recent emergence of the related fields of neuromarketing and sensory marketing are reviewed. Now that these new techniques are really starting to show their predictive mettle relative to other, more traditional, consumer psychology/behavioural testing approaches to marketing, questions around the ethics of stimulating the brain’s “buy button” start to raise their head. Here, I want to question what exactly is so special, and so worrying, about “looking inside the mind of the consumer”. I will argue that public fears around the dangers of neuromarketing have been overblown, at least up until the present time and, as far as I can see, for the foreseeable future. I do, though, want to raise a number of concerns around the growing influence of sensory marketing on our behaviour, focusing, in particular, on the world of food and drink marketing. Ultimately, I believe that the consumer of tomorrow may well have much to fear from the emerging neuroscience-inspired approaches to sensory marketing. In fact, before too long, we may all start to find ourselves being sensorially “nudged” into a range of less healthy food behaviours. As such, establishing clear ethical guidelines will, I believe, become an increasingly important issue for those working in the field.


Sensory marketing Consumer neuroscience Neuromarketing Ethics Sensory nudging Food and beverage marketing 


Disclosure Statement

Over the last two decades, Prof. Spence has consulted with many of the world’s largest companies on the topics of neuromarketing and sensory marketing. He has published psychophysical and neuromarketing studies of the Lynx effect on behalf of Unilever. This research is referred to in this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental PsychologyOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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