The Frontal Lobe Asymmetry Model and Consumer Behavior

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Bottom line:

This is a very ambitious set of claims and propositions covering vast areas of brain processes, marketing and consumer behavior. It is over reaching and implausible. However, it is also very appealing in the comprehensiveness of the model and it’s reported conclusions which support current marketing beliefs and perceived everyday experiences.

It proposes a very simple answer to some very complicated questions.

Strengths –
– The idea that getting something relatively cheaply and that this is mediated by need/desire – perceived or not — makes intuitive sense.
– This is a decent first descriptive study. But the lack of a more solid ties to all other behavioral work with animals and brain physiology and neuronal processes makes it’s seem an outlier. Consumer neural researchers have to start putting their work in the context of the most advanced brain science and not just other consumer and behavioral psych work.
Main flaws –
– Lack of useful animal models.
– “This is the first study to show that frontal EEG asymmetry predicts purchase decision.” Correlated not causal, yet. Needs replication.
– The best evidence is that go/no go behavior occurs simultaneously in different areas of the brain in 150ms. This model must address that window.
OK, here are the differences I am finding in my study from the paper:
– It is not clear emotions signal anything related to behavior. Someone as influential as LeDoux suggest not. The “fact” of emotions predicting or driving behaviors needs to be proven — it cannot be assumed based on past work. The tech is much better now.
– There is a great deal of work in money models of behavioral directionality or “choice” that occurs mainly in the LIP region not the PFC. Has this asymmetry been found in other animals? A mouse model should be easy to test.
– “a consumer’ s purchase decision involves a tradeoff between the pleasure derived from consumption and the pain of paying.” This seems very theoretical. We know from all other animal behavioral work that “getting” involves the immediate (150 ms) and unconscious movement between options. There is simply no time for perceived feelings to play any role.
– The word “decision” presumes what needs to be proven. We see behavior to “get” calling that a “decision” begs the question of the detailed mechanisms. “Decision” implies conscious processing which is premature – at best. Best to talk about behavior without evoking higher order concepts like “decision.”
– The proposed relationships between quality > price > preference seems a stretch.

Staments made as fact to support the arguments which are actually hypotheses and need to be further studied and proven:

– “Brand associations are formed when interacting with the brand (e.g., store visits and actual consumption) and during prior indirect brand exposures (e.g., via brand communications” It would be easy to test this with animals using familiar visual cues.

– “Consumers tend to perceive brands in the high-quality tier (e.g., national brands) as offering “comfort, security, and value,” whereas brands in the low- quality tier (e.g., private-label brands), offer lower prices but lower quality too ” This is based on one study and self-reports. We do not know if self-reports: 1) Correspond to any specific brain processes, 2) Are consistent, 3) Influence behavior. They may be but we need to prove that definitively before making all these other claims.

– “Given the discussion above, it would be expected that emotional- motivational factors play a greater role in determining purchase decision for national brand products compared with private-label products.” Boy, this is a BIG stretch. A much better study would have been to do some basic descriptive exploration around these claims rather than such elaborate theory building.

“This result suggests that the memory-related asymmetries observed during functional neuroimaging studies may not be critical for task performance.”

Positron emission tomography (PET) experiments have detected blood flow activations in right anterior prefrontal cortex during performance of a word stem cued recall task  and . Based on findings from a variety of PET studies, the “hemispheric encoding/retrieval asymmetry model” [44] was proposed to explain the role of the frontal lobes in episodic memory. This model asserts that left prefrontal cortex is preferentially involved in the encoding of new information into episodic memory, whereas right prefrontal cortex is more involved in episodic memory retrieval. As a neuropsychological test of this hypothesis, a group of frontal patients with lesions in areas 6, 8, 9, 10, 44, 45 and/or 46 (11 left, five right) were run on word stem cued recall under two semantic study conditions. As a group, these patients were not significantly impaired in cued recall. In the first but not the second experiment, left frontal patients recalled fewer words than controls. Right frontal patients were not impaired on either list. Right prefrontal cortex could be activated by several strategic aspects of the cued recall paradigm that were minimized in the present experiment. Brain reorganization in the lesioned patients could also account for their intact performance. The regions of prefrontal cortex activated in PET studies of young controls are not necessary for patients to perform the task. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd

The frontal lobes are widely implicated in logical reasoning. Recent neuroimaging studies suggest that frontal lobe involvement in reasoning is asymmetric (L>R) and increases with the presence of familiar, meaningful content in the reasoning situation. However, neuroimaging data can only provide sufficiency criteria. To determine the necessity of prefrontal involvement in logical reasoning, we tested 19 patients with focal frontal lobe lesions and 19 age‐ and education‐matched normal controls on the Wason Card Selection Task, while manipulating social knowledge. Patients and controls performed equivalently on the arbitrary rule condition. Normal controls showed the expected improvement in the social knowledge conditions, but frontal lobe patients failed to show this facilitation in performance. Furthermore, left hemisphere patients were more affected than right hemisphere patients, suggesting that frontal lobe involvement in reasoning is asymmetric (L>R) and necessary for reasoning about social situations.

“This leads us to postulate that, while left prefrontal cortex involvement is necessary for reasoning about familiar situations, it is probably not sufficient.  ”

“…environmental variables more significantly influence the width of the right compared to the left prefrontal lobe.” – in monkeys

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Cognitive Dissonance – Devaluing What Doesn’t Agree

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Whereas these experiments do not directly witness on the effect of music on human evolution, they testify to several fundamental problems.

First, every cognition or a piece of knowledge contradicts to inborn instinctual drives to some extent (otherwise instinctual drives would be sufficient for making decisions involving this cognition; this cognition would not be useful and it would not appear; the same applies to any pair of cognitions: if there is no even a minor contradiction among them, one of these cognitions is useless). In other words, useful cognitions always involve contradictions. The very process of thinking involves evaluating contradictory options.

According to the current understanding of cognitive dissonance, contradictory cognitions are devalued. Therefore accumulation of knowledge and ability to think requires a mechanism for tolerating (overcoming) cognitive dissonance. In view of importance of this conclusion, even a first step in this paper toward identifying a mechanism for tolerating cognitive dissonance is fundamentally important.

A second fundamental question addressed by our experiments concerns existence of cognitive function of music. As discussed, contemporary cognitive and evolutionary musicology faces great controversies in attempting to identify such a function for music. This question has been addressed by great minds for about 2,500 years, and the conclusion has been that it remains a mystery12. Tolerating cognitive dissonance and making thinking possible could be such a fundamental cognitive function of music.

In the present study, the experimental condition of “strongly worded condition” was presented without music, as it is assumed that this condition would not create any cognitive dissonance. However, an inclusion of the with-music treatment within this condition relative to the without-music treatment could strengthen the present findings; if there is indeed no dissonance, there should be no difference in changes of ranking with or without music for the strongly worded condition. Also, the evaluation of the arousal status of the participants after different treatments should be of importance as a complementary measure in helping resolve whether they did experience cognitive dissonance. Apparently, these are issues that are to be investigated in the near future.

Whereas these experiments do not directly witness on the effect of music on human evolution, they testify to several fundamental problems. First, every cognition or a piece of knowledge contradicts to inborn instinctual drives to some extent (otherwise instinctual drives would be sufficient for making decisions involving this cognition; this cognition would not be useful and it would not appear; the same applies to any pair of cognitions: if there is no even a minor contradiction among them, one of these cognitions is useless). In other words, useful cognitions always involve contradictions. The very process of thinking involves evaluating contradictory options. According to the current understanding of cognitive dissonance, contradictory cognitions are devalued.

Therefore accumulation of knowledge and ability to think requires a mechanism for tolerating (overcoming) cognitive dissonance. In view of importance of this conclusion, even a first step in this paper toward identifying a mechanism for tolerating cognitive dissonance is fundamentally important.

A second fundamental question addressed by our experiments concerns existence of cognitive function of music. Tolerating cognitive dissonance and making thinking possible could be such a fundamental cognitive function of music.

Marketers Beware: Seeing Food Pics B4 May Kill Desire for Same

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Instagram Is Spoiling Your Dinner  by Benjamin Plackett

It turns out that those self-appointed ‘foodies’ clogging up your Instagram feed with photos of their latest gastronomic feat are more than just annoying – they’re literally ruining your appetite.

Research published last month in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests the visual anticipation of that farm-to-table, foie gras-topped bison burger you’re going to eat tonight may not heighten the culinary experience after all – in fact it does the opposite.

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Childhood Stress and Trauma Leads to External vs. Internal Focus

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The Degree Of Early Life Stress Predicts …And The Shift From Internally To Externally Guided Decision Making:...Excerpted and edited from full article here

Take Aways:

Taken together, our neuronal and behavioral findings demonstrate that:

  • High childhood stress and trauma
  • Is related to lower MPFC activation during both rest and the self-oriented task.
  • This is behaviorally manifested as an abnormal shift from internally to externally guided decision making, even in situations where internal guidance is required.

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Content May Change Real Behavior: Neuromarketing Insights

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There has been a recent emphasis on content but little research supporting it — here is some.  Also support for neuromarketing.


Take Aways

  • “An ad is only as strong as its central argument, which matters more than its audiovisual presentation
  • This is the first time research has shown an association between cognition and brain activity in response to content and format in televised ads and behavior.
  • If you give someone an unconvincing ad, it doesn’t matter what format you do on top of that. You can make it sensational. But in terms of effectiveness, content is more important.” 

Anti-Smoking Ads With Strong Arguments, Not Flashy Editing, Trigger Part Of Brain That Changes Behavior Apr. 23, 2013 

Researchers…have shown that an area of the brain that initiates behavioral changes had greater activation in smokers who watched anti-smoking ads with strong arguments versus those with weaker ones, and irrespective of flashy elements, like bright and rapidly changing scenes, loud sounds and unexpected scenario twists.

This is the first time research has shown an association between cognition and brain activity in response to content and format in televised ads and behavior.

Even ads riddled with attention-grabbing tactics, the research suggests, are not effective at reducing tobacco intake unless their arguments are strong. However, ads with flashy editing and strong arguments, for example, produced better recognition. Continue reading

Science Denialism Tactics – Rhetorical Tricks + Abusive Ad Hominem

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“Individuals or groups who reject propositions on which a scientific or scholarly consensus exists can engage in denialism when they use rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none…

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More Evidence for No Free Will or “Thinking” and Behavior – With Abstract Tasks, Too

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Brain imaging spots our abstract choices before we do — When it comes to making decisions, it seems that the conscious mind is the last to know —  by Caroline Williams — April 10, 2013

When it comes to making decisions, it seems that the conscious mind is the last to know.….electrical activity in the supplementary motor area, involved in initiating movement, and in the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls attention and motivation, appeared up to 5 seconds before a volunteer was aware of deciding to press the button. This backed up earlier fMRI studies…that had traced the origins of decisions to the prefrontal cortex a whopping 10 seconds before awareness Continue reading