A simple gesture like pressing a button can make us choose one product over another. A study published in Nature Neuroscience offers clues about how our brain reacts to certain stimuli and how it can be used in advertising. The goal is to use this knowledge to help people make healthy food choices.
Our preferences can be manipulated with some ease. It is something that advertising experts know, who have spent years checking how the product that becomes more familiar to the consumer (due to the insistence of the ads) or the one with the most striking packaging, is the one that ends up in the shopping basket. the purchase. The team of Tom Schonberg, University of Austin, Texas, just check that our will can be molded with something as seemingly innocuous as pushing a button, and a touch of attention we do prefer the product even two months after the stimulus.
For their experiment, published in Nature Neuroscience, the scientists gathered 200 student volunteers who were enrolled in a kind of auction in which they had to assess how much they would pay for a list of 60 types of snacks, from chocolate covered candies to bags of potatoes. fried. Then, and still in front of the computer, the volunteers returned to see the products that they had already evaluated, but in some cases a sound was emitted that invited them to press the button as quickly as possible and in other cases not.
After this first training session, Schonberg's team put the students through a new test. This time they had to choose between pairs of two products that they had valued. The result was that two out of three times, the subjects chose those snacks that had been associated with sound during training, even though they rated the other one better during the first evaluation of the experiment.
If the customer has to spend a second on your product, it will leave a mark
But here the surprises do not end. When the researchers repeated the auction from the beginning, the participants were willing to pay more money for the products they had associated with the sound than they had initially offered. And when they repeated the tests two months later, the effect continued. "We have shown," Schonberg tells Next, "that the simple gesture of associating a sound with pressing a button while presenting certain junk food products leads to choosing these products more frequently." "The novelty in this case," he adds, "is that, without any external rewards or incentives, we have managed to include in people's evaluations and choices for a long period of time."
How does this process occur? What scientists have observed is that choice amplified the activity of one area of the brain, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is activated when one object is preferred over another. "Based on these results," says Schonberg, "it appears that the induced response [the gesture of pressing the button] causes increased attention to objects and this increases our preference for them." In other words, if the customer has to spend a second on your product, it will leave a mark. And why were the volunteers willing to pay more for these items? "Probably", responds the leader of the investigation, "because associating the button gesture with the answer increased its value. For now, we only see what happens, but we cannot say what causes it."
Regarding the future application in the advertising field, the scientist points out that the seller would need not only that we listen to a sound but also that we carry out some type of action such as the button. "There are many potential applications," he tells us, "but I am hopeful that instead of selling more junk food it will be used to expand consumption of healthy foods. If the effect we have found works with the highest valued items, we could a mobile application to expand the choice of preferred fruits and vegetables ".
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