How do shops use neuroscience to convince you to buy something?

Do the big brands use tricks to get you to buy stuff?
04 April 2017

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Question

How do companies or advertisers use neuroscience to convince someone to hand over your cash?

Answer

Neuroeconomist Philipe Bujold answered this question...

Philipe - Yes. So that’s usually the consideration that people want to look at, and it does make sense. There are a few things that people use and it’s not always just about neuroscience, it’s just certain psychological biases that we have, for example, sales. People could give you the exact same price, say it’s on sale, and you would still prefer it to the same object not on sale.

There is also things like choice. We think choices is better but, usually, more choices is not. It’s going to confer biases to specific options; it’s going to allow less of your neurons to apply themselves to one specific decisions and evaluate every possibility. So there’s a few different things like that that advertising and companies can do.

But the reverse end of that is that there’s a lot of good things we can also do with these biases. So, for example, let’s say climate change. People can look at these things and try to influence people’s behaviour and decisions with it so we are very susceptible to social pressures and social engagement. If you send someone a bill that says what the average energy consumption of household is, further little neighbour area, people are usually a lot more conscious of their choices and decisions than if you don’t, so there’s things like that. I’m sure there, at least people in Cambridge and London, and probably a few different places also, where you put eyes on ads saying don’t steal things. People are very conscious about eyes, so people will steal less if there’s eyes.

Chris - Does that work?

Philipe - Yep, it works, and it works in pretty much every situation.

Chris - Goodness. And do you find going shopping a tricky experience because you must see all this sort of neuromarketing going on and think I’m being duped, I’m being duped, I’m being duped, and it makes you really suspicious? Do you want to buy anything?

Philipe - I actually went shopping today and I have to say I felt…

Chris - Is that a new shirt? I was going to say that’s quite a good shirt that. Is that today’s purchase?

Philipe - It was on sale actually.

Chris - It was, OK?

Philipe - Obviously, humans or humans. Even though I know about certain biases we have, I still fall prey to them all the time and I think everybody in my field does the same thing. That’s why we’re so interested in it because we know we’re going to make the same mistakes over, and over, and over. But why do they happen?

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