Science Questions

Is Neuromarketing an ethically sound science?

Sat, 9th Oct 2010

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Neuromarketing - The Brain Basis of Buying Behaviour


Alice asked:

What was their career progression to lead them to using people's neurology as an advertising tool? I am interested from the perspective of the choices and experiences that lead them to believe that this is an ethical career (or not) and that lowering people's self esteem (I believe this is one of the methods used - I am happy to be corrected on this) in order to make them buy stuff is a good thing.†


We put this question to Dr Mirre Stallen...

Mirre -   Well, itís a question that many people ask.  I think it's something that really comes to your mind if you hear the term neuromarketing.  But first, I think itís good to point out that people already get influenced, that marketers already go out and do their own marketing research, and know very well how to influence people.  So, thatís just done by questionnaires and market research but itís true that with brain imaging, you do get different information about peopleís behaviour than you get with the behavioural research.  For instance, you can see when people do things more automatically or whether they put more effort into things and what this can cause is that commercials may target their consumers better.  So I can see that thatís going to happen in the future by having knowledge from neuromarketing research.  But whether that's really unethical, making commercials better but making people get more influenced by the commercials, I think thatís something that you have to decide for yourself, whether you think thatís unethical or not.

Sarah -   So, does it make you feel bad what you do then?

Mirre -   No, because marketers already knew that celebrities work in advertisements so I didnít show anything new with it.  I more or less only showed how it works, so I'm just interested in why things happen the way they do, so they already knew.

Chris -   But one of the things Sarah is getting at Mirre is, what about if the actual product you're advertising makes the person feel bad because if they don't buy it, they're made to feel bad for not having it.

Mirre -   I would say thatís not a good thing.

Chris -   But thatís what they all do!

Mire -   Yes.  Like you said, thatís what they already do, right?  So thatís not what neuromarketing really is going to change.  Thatís what people already do with the way they make their commercials right now.


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