Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness

Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness

By
Hilke Plassmann, John O'Doherty, Baba Shiv, Antonio Rangel
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
2008

Despite the importance and pervasiveness of marketing, almost nothing is known about the neural mechanisms through which it affects decisions made by individuals. We propose that marketing actions, such as changes in the price of a product, can affect neural representations of experienced pleasantness. We tested this hypothesis by scanning human subjects using functional MRI while they tasted wines that, contrary to reality, they believed to be different and sold at different prices. Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. The paper provides evidence for the ability of marketing actions to modulate neural correlates of experienced pleasantness and for the mechanisms through which the effect operates.