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Consumer NeuroscienceReview - Consumer Neuroscience
by Moran Cerf and Manuel Garcia-Garcia (Editors)
MIT Press, 2018
Review by Maura Pilotti, PhD
May 1st 2018 (Volume 22, Issue 18)

In a nutshell, Consumer Neuroscience is a comprehensive introduction to the contribution that neuroscience can make to the field of marketing. The book, which is edited by Moran Cerf and Manuel Garcia-Garcia, contains a diverse array of chapters, each uniquely devoted to a particular topic, but unified by a data-driven approach to knowledge. Specifically, the book overviews the findings of studies devoted to how consumers perceive and conceptualize products, brands, and communications, as well as make purchasing decisions. Theories of cognition and behavior of consumers are seen through the lenses of the scientific method and thus through the reliability and validity of the findings upon which they rely.

The explicit goal of the editors of the book as well as of the assembled experts who wrote its individual chapters is to offer readers who are interested in consumerism (e.g., marketing managers) information about the functioning of the human brain that they can easily understand and employ in their work. Cerf and Garcia-Garcia note that although neuroscience has made a considerable amount of progress in recent years, communication between this field and marketing research has remained less than desirable. They believe that if the language barriers that prevent marketing operatives from understanding the field of neuroscience are overcome, information about the functioning of the human brain can increase the effectiveness of marketing applications in real-life settings. Of course, neuroscientists' improved understanding of the field of marketing can also have a beneficial effect on neuroscience by offering new areas of inquiry as well as determining the suitability of current theoretical frameworks to applied settings. Yet, Consumer Neuroscience is written for an audience of current and future marketing operatives. With this audience in mind, its narrative illustrates not only the basic needs of marketing operatives who serve a multitude of industries, but also the extent to which such needs can be met by information from the field of neuroscience.

Neuroscientists seek to understand how the brain works at different levels, from the activities of entire cortical or subcortical areas to the activities of microscopic entities, such as nerve cells, which are visible only under potent microscopes. The techniques that marketing scholars and operatives are likely to find suited to their interests and needs are those that gather real-time information about brain areas. At this level of analysis, their attention may focus on how diverse brain areas respond to specific stimuli (e.g., products), as well as the extent to which these responses correspond to particular attitudes, preferences, and behaviors (e.g., leasing, purchasing, etc.). Thus, different chapters are skillfully organized to ensure that even a reader whose acquaintance with neuroscience is utterly naive can understand its potential utility to the field of marketing.

The first chapters overview the anatomy and physiology of the human brain and techniques whose main purpose is to eavesdrop on this key constituent of the central nervous system, either directly (e.g., fMRI or EEG) or indirectly through the observation of behavioral correlates (e.g., eye movements, micro-facial expressions, etc.). Once a basic introduction to the human brain is completed, coverage moves to sensation and perception and to specific functional features of human cognition, including attention, memory, emotion, and decision making. The aim of the editors and contributors is to explain the extent to which knowledge of perceptual and cognitive processes and the neurological epiphenomena they underlie can inform marketing decisions in the everyday business environment. Later chapters become more specific in their focus on issues that are directly relevant to the field of marketing, such as pricing, prediction of behavior, and implicit processing. Of particular interest are the chapters that the reader finds towards the end of the book in which ethical issues are explored and future directions are examined. The coverage of ethical implications is especially relevant nowadays since widespread access to online devices and applications has heightened concerns regarding the potential misuse of customers' information, either directly harvested by a business or merely purchased from consulting or data mining firms. Indeed, if neuroscience continues to change the way research on consumer behavior is conducted, the findings of this type of research will be even more likely to become tangible opportunities for human exploitation. Thus, objections not only to research relying on neuroscientific methods and theories for marketing purposes, but also to applications of its findings will become louder and more frequent. Although the chapter devoted to ethical implications adequately addresses some critical issues of marking research's ever-growing reliance on neuroscience, a broader coverage may have been desirable.

In sum, Consumer Neuroscience is an engaging and helpful read for all who are considering a career in marketing or are already in this field and wish to update their knowledge base. The rather outstanding feature of the book is that it seamlessly combines the perspectives and methodologies of scientists with the needs and expectations of operatives in the concrete, day-to-day field of marketing research. In doing so, it produces a narrative that is both engaging and fruitful. In fact, as it pierces through the obstacles of translating knowledge and methods from one field to the other, the book offers marketing operatives more than one incentive to familiarize themselves with the tools and basic facts of neuroscience.

 

© 2018 Maura Pilotti

 

Maura Pilotti, PhD


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