Friday, September 14, 2007

Neuromarketing = Pseudo-Science

Mya Frazier wrote an interesting article for AdAge about the credibility of today's Neuromarketing. It's an insightful look at the current advent of Neuromarketing and who will soon knock at your agency door. Reading it, one realizes that most of this science is based on half-ass experiments and pseudo-science.

And, this flawed approach is still running rampant: Buying behavior is much more complex and layered than flawed science can ever try to explain:

"Indeed, in the view of some neuroscientists and marketing researchers, the notion that the human brain should be studied in isolation is deeply flawed to begin with. Measuring the brain's reaction to a TV spot simply does not provide enough data to extrapolate future behavior. Studying how a person interacts within the larger culture is far more important.
'There are many other constraints outside the brain that make us act the way we do,' said John Winsor, VP-director of the cognitive and cultural radar department in Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Boulder, Colo., office.

For example, does it make a difference if a test subject's brain lights up while viewing a Hummer ad in Boulder, where 'you feel guilty if you don't drive a Prius, or where my parents live, in Cody, Wyo., where the norm is to drive a pickup truck?'

'There are other factors that control how we are going to interact, and culture is a big one,' he added."

As Herd explains in his blog, most of our behavior is based on other people. It's a very basic truth (Social Drinking, Social Smoking, etc.) but often overlooked. Scientists should focus their efforts on this phenomenon, instead of lugging equipment around just to make a buck.

In his own words: "(...) we're nearing the end of the beginning for understanding the general principles of the relationship between brain activity and behaviour but no further.

And we're extremely unlikely to get where the neuromarketers would like us to get: understanding the precise relationship between stimulus, brain activity and behaviour.

The biggest problem is that ours is a social brain not an individual self-determining brain: it's the brain of a creature whose life consists largely of other people and interaction with them. Looking at it as if it were otherwise and the creature that owns it as an isolated agent is a pointless abstraction."

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