Use MRI for: Politics

Neuromarketing is the application of neuroimaging methods to product marketing, to more effectively “match products with people”. Companies can incorporate use of fMRI in the design process of a product, as well as in assessing the effectiveness of an advertising campaign.

Neuromarketeers hope that as well as streamlining marketing processes, neuromarketing will reveal information about consumer preferences that is unobtainable through conventional methods. It is based on the assumption that you and I cannot fully articulate our preferences when asked to express them explicitly, and that our brains contain hidden information about our true preferences. Moreover, the link between expressed preference and whether we will actually buy the product is not always clear.

Today in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, authors Ariely and Berns review a number of applications of neuromarketing: food products, film and TV, architecture, and interestingly, political candidates.

Activation in different parts of the prefrontal cortex has been associated with subjects’ motivated reasoning, maintaining political preference in response to advertisements, and changing their political candidate preference. The paper states,

“In marketing terms, the political candidates are the products that must be sold to the electorate. Therefore, like other products, candidates and their campaigns have pre- and post-design phases. Political marketing is aimed at selling an existing candidate but, with more foresight, can also be used to ‘design’ a better candidate.”

They go on:

“Although potential nominees already go through a ‘grooming’ process, it is worth examining this prospect. A candidate’s appearance, trustworthiness and message content might determine a voter’s decision.”

I hope research continues, but into how to influence voter decisions on the basis of policy and message in spite of a candidate’s appearance.