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J Neurosci. 2010 Jun 9;30(23):8024-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0064-10.2010.

Neural responses to unattended products predict later consumer choices.

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1
Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10115 Berlin, Germany. anita.tusche@bccn-berlin.de

Abstract

Imagine you are standing at a street with heavy traffic watching someone on the other side of the road. Do you think your brain is implicitly registering your willingness to buy any of the cars passing by outside your focus of attention? To address this question, we measured brain responses to consumer products (cars) in two experimental groups using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants in the first group (high attention) were instructed to closely attend to the products and to rate their attractiveness. Participants in the second group (low attention) were distracted from products and their attention was directed elsewhere. After scanning, participants were asked to state their willingness to buy each product. During the acquisition of neural data, participants were not aware that consumer choices regarding these cars would subsequently be required. Multivariate decoding was then applied to assess the choice-related predictive information encoded in the brain during product exposure in both conditions. Distributed activation patterns in the insula and the medial prefrontal cortex were found to reliably encode subsequent choices in both the high and the low attention group. Importantly, consumer choices could be predicted equally well in the low attention as in the high attention group. This suggests that neural evaluation of products and associated choice-related processing does not necessarily depend on attentional processing of available items. Overall, the present findings emphasize the potential of implicit, automatic processes in guiding even important and complex decisions.

PMID:
20534850
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0064-10.2010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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