This is your brain on marketing

AlanaldaTonight, the frontiers of marketing science advance (or regress, depending upon your feelings about being inside Hawkeye‘s brain) to the subject of neuroeconomics, the use of brain scans to assist marketers in determining the ways of persuasion.

A commercial-free show (ironically enough) dedicated to the topic—Hidden Motives: Alan Alda in Scientific American Frontiers—airs on PBS tonight at 8:30 EST. In the show, host/guinea pig Alda subjects himself to a magnetic image scan at Caltech, allowing eggheads Steve Quartz and Anette Asp to watch how his brain reacts to pictures of products. The goal of neuroeconomics is to build "a biological model of decision-making in economic decisions" by combining cognitive neuroscience and experimental economics. (On a serious front, the phenomenon of the autonomous, uncontrollable flutter of the brain in moments of recognition, or so reports Homeland Security Today, is leading anti-terrorist units to develop the science into a fool-proof lie detector test.) Designers have divided products for Alda’s perusal into what they regard as cool (iPod and Mini Cooper) and uncool (Buick). Cool products, Quartz says, stimulate the right front brain lobe; during the show, Alda’s brain rebels against the uncool. Alda also flunks the Implicit Association Test for prejudice, demonstrating to Harvard psychologist Mazharin Banaji that lurking behind the veneer of Alda’s feminist pandering is an old-fashioned sexist who resents women in the workplace. Finally, Princeton researchers examine how Alda’s brain weighs rational versus emotional choices, localizing the brain area we all know too well: The region that registers "disgust"!

—Posted by Gregory Solman