The Frontal Lobe Asymmetry Model and Consumer Behavior


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


Behavioral Economics is Bunk*: The “Why” and the How


Behavioral economics (BE) was invented by a couple of very rich non-profit foundation heads and Boards of Directors as a personal and ideological agenda to defend the failed ideas of classical economics, mainly the rationality dogma of human behavior.  They accomplished this marketing and ideological goal by manufacturing false evidence supposdly proving that human behavior is “illogical.”  They were, and still are, such clever marketers and ideologues that one of the hired guns, Dan Kahneman, a pretend intellectual and social scientist.

Further, the childishly simplistic notions of “nudges” and behavioral management was grabbed by governments in the desperation of the economic meltdown.  Understandable.  The con men tell folks what they already believe and want to believe.

The power/ideological agenda of BE is deeply reactionary and conservative – to “prove” that humans are “irrational/illogical” and therefore justify dishonest policies called “nudges.”   But the evidence says differently.  Let’s examine that, shall we?

Below is some evidence for debunking the precepts and practices of BE.  Please disagree and debunk, with peer-reviewed citations. Continue reading

Malcom Gladwell’s Ideas are Silly, but Silly Ideas Always Make Lots of $$$$


The problem with Gladwell’s generalizations about prediction is that he never zeroes in on the essence of a statistical problem and instead overinterprets some of its trappings.

The reasoning in “Outliers,” which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle.  {Steven Pinker and below and from Continue reading

Good Starter Biological Model of Brain and Behavior


Beyond the Computer Metaphor: Behaviour as Interaction – Paul Cisek, 1999

We need to step back from the input-output metaphor of computationalism and ask what kind  of information processing the brain does, and what is its purpose.  The answer, suggested numerous times throughout the last hundred years, is that the brain is exerting control over its environment.  It does so by constructing behavioral control circuits which functionally extend outside of the body, making use of consistent properties of the environment including the behavior of other organisms. These circuits  and the control they allow are the very reason for having a brain.

Behavior as Control – “”Behavior Is the Control of Perception.”
We begin with a fundamental premise: The brain evolved…The evolution of a biological system such as the brain is…a rich source of constraints for anyone theorizing about how the brain functions and about what it does. It is a source of insight that is too often overlooked…we should expect to gain insight into the abilities of modern brains by considering the requirements faced by primitive brains, and the sequence of evolutionary changes by which these primitive brains evolved into modern brains. Continue reading

“Suppressing the Brain’s Filter Can Improve Performance in Creative Tasks”


Penn Researchers Show that Suppressing the Brain’s Filter Can Improve Performance in Creative Tasks

“The real takeaway…is that when you give people a task for which they do not know the goal — such as showing them an object and asking, ‘What else can you do with this thing’ — anything that they would normally do to filter out irrelevant information about the object will hurt their ability to do the task.” Continue reading

“I think/feel, therefore I buy” — Probaby Not


Here’s a good rule of thumb for brain stuff, psychology, econ, etc – what we all naturally , talk about, tell ourselves and each other and our subjective experiences, feelings, etc are probably bad indicators of how our brains operate to control behavior.  It seems more likely that the opposite of what we believe is true!  So critical thinking is really necessary.  It’s hard.

Let’s, briefly, look at our beliefs about why we ourselves, and everyone else buy stuff.

Pretty much everyone, including most economists, scientists, policy folks, business folks and marketers – go along with the naive realism view that the subjective experiences we all chat about cause buying behavior.  That is likely an illusion.  A set of illusions that waste a lot of marketing time and money. Continue reading

Key for Marketers, Biz and Policy Folks – The Biology of Motivation


It is a shame economists are so clueless about this basic biology – but they live in their own world.  The related strange world of behavioral econ has no understanding over even awareness of this complexity.

The term motivation refers to a construct that is widely used in psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience. As is the case with many psychological concepts, the discussion of motivation had its origins in philosophy…..According to a more recent definition, motivation is ‘‘the set of processes through which organisms regulate the probability, proximity and availability of stimuli’’ (Salamone, 1992). Generally speaking, the modern psychological construct of motivation refers to the behaviorally-relevant processes that enable organisms to regulate both their external and internal environment (Salamone, 2010)… Continue reading