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neuroeconomics car purchasing decisions

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

 

In this mini-series of Neuroeconomics, we look at purchasing decisions of consumers and how the activity in the brain can predict purchasing behaviour.

While some of us may think we don’t want a car, let alone car what type we’d choose, Susan Erk’s study in 2002 showed that in fact many of us can have extreme car category preference wether we know the exact brand name or not.

In the study she asked male subjects to rate different categories of cars – sportscars, limousines and small cars.

The brain activity of the Nucleus Accumbens (see below) was found to correlate directly to the car category preference; the more the brain reacted, the more they liked the ‘sportscar’, and the inverse was true for the least liked ‘small car’.

car category

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

 

The category of product alone was enough to strongly activate the NA part of the brain, and signal a specific purchase decision, regardless of the lack of a specific brand to consider.

This is an interesting insight into the potential powerful effects of marketing to associate values to general items and spur a purchase decision within a category alone. How much value do “luxury” brands need to carry if the category itself can carry them so far?

 

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev’s course ‘Introduction to Neuroeconomics; how the brain makes decisions’ through the National Research University Russia. Available now as an online learning course through Coursera.com. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

 

 

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So far we’ve gathered that the level of activity in our Nucleus Accumbens shows our predicted values.

But can this can lead to actual financial decisions? Can we predict a person’s decision to buy a product based on their brain activity?

The answer is yes.

Our brain has an expected value – what it expects us to enjoy when it gets a cue like seeing our favourite chocolate bar in the shops. (That’s the point where we think “Yum that will taste good when I eat it”.)

shopping and brain

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

And so our brain buzzes with excitement, and this activity in the Nucleus Accumbens, leading to a purchase of the chocolate bar.

Conversely, when people don’t buy it, the activity is less – as seen below. We’re just not so buzzed to pay the cash for the reward.

 

NA firing rate

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

In Brian Knutson’s study using fMRI to predict financial choices, subjects were asked to press a buzzer when they saw a cue in order to receive money.

When that monetary figure was $5, the subject’s neurons fired more, but when it was $1, it fired less. So when the person expected to get more money, the brain showed activity related to what anticipated gain they thought they would get.

knutson monetary $5 test

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev’s course ‘Introduction to Neuroeconomics; how the brain makes decisions’ at https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

Most interesting was that the neurons firing was actually strongest before the actual outcome – i.e. in the anticipation of it.

knutson firing rate

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

So it seems we can’t quite help but buy that little black dress, great-smelling cake, refreshing cocktail or any other pleasurable experience we’ve had before.

We’re hard wired to prefer it, and act on that decision again. And again. And again.

Full rights and credits to the content extracted here from Dr Vasily Klucharev’s course ‘Introduction to Neuroeconomics; how the brain makes decisions’ through the National Research University Russia. Available now as an online learning course through Coursera.com. For more information please head to https://www.coursera.org/course/neuroec

 

the rescuing hug

‘The Rescuing Hug’ – This picture is of two week old twins who were in separate incubators, and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought agast the hospital rules and placed the babies together in one incubator. The healthier of the two threw her arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilised and her temperature rose to normal.

As someone whose nickname was ‘squeeze’ when I was a little girl, I can attest to loving a hug.

But recently, hugs have started to reveal their health effects.

Studies have shown that hugging has been shown to release oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the love hormone”, in particularly high quantities following positive social interactions (like hugging). Oxytocin is key to boosting trust, sociability, and triggering maternal instincts while lessening anxiety and social fear.

However in 2010, hugging got an upgrade to a healing activity.

A study among couples found that increases in oxytocin following hugs correlated with faster wound healing. The hypothesis was that oxytocin reduces inflammation, thus allowing the wound to heal more quickly.

The study also showed that people who said they felt more social and spousal support and had more hugs and massages had higher oxytocin levels than those who reported less support and physical intimacy.

For man’s best friend, patting your pet also boost oxytocin (for canine and man alike!), and emailing loved ones has the same effect.

Providing doses of oxytocin has also been shown to result in more positive than negative behaviours during disagreements with your partner, confirming prior evidence that oxytocin  affects couples’ positive and negative communication behaviours. Read more on the study here. It also can improve communication skills for autistic children if provided in doses.

So what are you waiting for?

Do as Hunter and Collectors say.

Go find a squeeze.

Hugs are the universal medicine. 

~Author Unknown

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Love can come in the most curious forms.

In his latest book ‘Hallucinations’, Oliver Sacks tells a story about his patient, Gertie C., who suffers intense visual hallucinations as a result of Parkinson’s postencephalictic disease – or ‘frozen’ disease (as described in Sacks’ book and film ‘Awakenings’).

Sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, hallucinations are an offshoot of the disease which is thought to be due to a build up of proteins in the parts of your brain that deals with sight and movement.

After some distress at her visualisations, Gertie decides to submit to the oddities her brain conjures, and embrace the experience instead…

In the form of a hallucinatory gentleman caller.

Every night, he arrives faithfully on her doorstep with flowers, presents, love and warm companionship.

Who says love isn’t real?

Image courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk

Bad day at the office?

In the Olympics, if you choke, it’s 4 years ’til your next review.

Canadian swimming psychologist Hap Davis made his athletes watch video re-runs of their failures on repeat and scanned their brains to see what was going on under the lid.

Initially when watching the video, high level blood flow to their amydala (responsible for emotions) and low-level to their motor cortices (where movement is executed). This likely reflected their physical reaction at the time.

Once they talked it through and explained the feelings of the race, he asked them to re-watch the race.

This time, blood flow to the amydala and pre-frontal cortex (which controls planning) was less, and blood flow to the motor cortex more.

Effectively, talking it out took away the negative emotion.

Who knew?

Image courtesy of Justin Metz at Newsweek.

Been online for 8 hours today?

Churning through emails, checking Facebook, posting Powerpoints, playing with pixels?

Guess what.

You’re brain is on crack.

MRI scans in the US and China are showing that people who spend 38 hours a week online (that’s not hard) are producing brains that look like drug addicts’.

The grey stuff (the smart stuff that controls motor function, memory, emotion, senses and more) shrinks by up to 10-20%, and the white stuff (involved in spreading messages quicker, attention and decision matter) grows in its place.

Your cerebral cortex, the part responsible for thought, changes shape. And it can start to morph after a week of practice. And it continues to.

So we’re becoming quicker thinkers. But we can’t remember about what.

And we pay more attention to that cat video, but can’t tell someone why it’s funny.

Same goes for gamers; speed, agility and skill vs smiles, memories and living in that weird thing called reality.

The advice from the doctor? Switch off.

More on this at Newsweek.com

How People Spend Their Time Online

According to trendwatching.com, 2012 is the year when we’ll all crave a little solitude. Switching off from life’s littanys, loves and ‘likes’ is just what we’re all secretly craving, they say.

The US average time spent daily online of 62 minutes vs a stolen snippet of morning meditation just doesn’t quite redress the imbalance.

Last year, Swedish telecoms provider Telia launched a free download that enabled customers to disable the internet for a set period of time at home and also set up internet-free zones in several public locations across Sweden.

Why? We’re too contactable. And too addicted.

Internet addiction will be listed in the Psychology Disorder Almanac, DSM V, as a listed psychological problem as of next year. But that means most people I know are sick sick sick.

We’re not at fault for communicating constantly all day, everyday. In fact the genius of the internet and social media is that it’s flattering the one thing humans love doing most; chatting, gossiping, storytelling and beating our own chests. It’s actually highly caveman behaviour. Just with more hashtags. And keys.

But now the internet is having its way with us. From young net addicts performing Fuicide to the  ‘Kony 2012‘ producer losing his marbles from ‘reactive psychosis’ due to net-addiction, our brains are screaming out for more time off. Even a holiday isn’t a holiday anymore unless your phone is switched off too.

So who’s going to lead/jump onto this ‘disconnection’ idea? After all, a break means you’ll have more energy to post with more punch afterwards, right?

So, on the count of three, join me and turn close your computer and go and see the real world.

One,

Two,

Still here, right??

Three. You’re hooked.

Read more about it at Newsweek.com

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