How Genetics Affect Consumer Choice“heritable and other hard-wired inherent preference components play a key role in behavior and deserve much more attention in marketing and decision-making research…”

In their study, “On the Heritability of Consumer Decision Making: An Exploratory Approach for Studying Genetic Effects on Judgment and Choice”, researchers Itamar Simonson and Aner Selaa find that many consumer behaviors related to judgment, choice, and decision making are influenced by genetic factors.

The authors studied twins’ consumer preferences to determine whether or not certain behaviors or traits have a genetic basis. “A greater similarity in behavior or trait between identical than between fraternal twins indicates that the behavior or trait is likely to be heritable,” the authors explain.

They discovered that people seem to inherit the following tendencies:

  • To choose a compromise option and avoid extremes
  • Select sure gains over gambles
  • Prefer an easy but non-rewarding task over an enjoyable challenging one
  • Look for the best option available
  • Prefer utilitarian, clearly needed options (like batteries) over more indulgent ones (gourmet chocolate).

The researchers also found that some tendencies did not seem to be heritable like a preference for a smaller versus larger product variety or likings for mustard and tattoos.

The authors believe their work may reveal some important information on the genetics of “prudence.” “Some people may be born with a tendency to ‘be in the mainstream’ whereas others tend to ‘live on the edge,” the authors conclude.

Full Article

Itamar Simonson and Aner Sela. On the Heritability of Consumer Decision Making: An Exploratory Approach for Studying Genetic Effects on Judgment and Choice. Journal of Consumer Research, April 2011


Advertising Voodoo #3: The Exposure Effect

Found On: Exposure Effect

It’s a fact. We like the things we see the most. It’s called The Exposure Effect. It states that people prefer, or feel more positively toward, the things to which they have been repeatedly exposed – even when they aren’t aware of the exposure.

The exposure effect probably originates as a component of the deeply rooted social phenomenon known as in-group favoritism.  It is an evolved mechanism that exists to instill strong bonds among our immediate family and social groups. In short, we have the most positive feelings toward those we are most closely associated with.  “In-groups and out-groups” are powerful psychological mechanisms that have implications far beyond the exposure effect. We’ll certainly be covering them in future posts.

The exposure effect is one of the most common findings in psychology, and as the study below describes, it even holds true when we aren’t aware we’re being exposed to something.

Research: Banner Ads Work — Even If You Don’t Notice Them At All

Research has shown that banners don’t have to be flashy (no pun intended) to be effective. Actually, they don’t even need to be noticed at all to sway attitudes positively.

Banners sit in the periphery on the typical web page. The majority of online ad exposure occurs when the viewer’s attention is focused elsewhere on the page – like on the content they’re actually on the page to see.  Studies show that even this incidental, passive exposure to banner advertising positively effects consumer attitudes.

“Regardless of measured click-through rates, banner ads may still create a favorable attitude toward the ad due to repeated exposure.”

The researchers investigated whether “mere exposure effect,” a condition in which people develop a positive perception of stimuli not presented to them on a noticeable level, was also applicable to incidental advertising.

In a series of experiments, they discovered that even if people couldn’t recall the ad content, repeated exposure led to familiarity, which then led to positive feelings. Participants had more positive evaluations toward the target banner ad as exposure frequency increased.

Participants also showed high levels of tolerance for banner ads on which they were not directly focused. According to the researchers, even after twenty exposures, common wear-out effects were not apparent.

Full Article:

So, this research isn’t an excuse for delivering underwhelming ads or letting your ads get stale, but it does show how consistently repeating certain branding elements in your ads helps build and reinforce positive attitudes towards that brand.

Advertising VooDoo Series

Advertising VooDoo is a series of articles that explore neuroscience and psychology of what makes advertising work.

Advertising VooDoo

Advertising VooDoo is a series of articles that explore neuroscience and psychology of what makes advertising work.

One definition of advertising is “… a form of communication used to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services.”

Advertising is everywhere. Sometimes its recognizable – commercials on TV and radio; ads in magazines; text, banner, and video ads online. Some its less recognizable. Menus, signage, store layout and design, landscaping, location are all advertising in that they communicate information in an attempt to persuade an audience to take an action.

Our culture is so drenched in advertising that it has become invisible to us – like the individual leaves on a tree. We are so habituated to all its elements that advertising has become just another part of the background noise of our everyday lives. But it affects us. Often in profound ways.

Advertising Is A Mind Hack.

Advertising can exert such a fundamental influence on us that it can change behavior, ideology, and beliefs. How/ Why? Because it takes advantage of common, hard-wired psychological mechanisms that have evolved over eons to help our species survive. Successful advertising hacks into these mechanisms, hijacks them, and puts them to use to influence behavior.

The series of posts that will follow will offer insights into how this works. Some of the posts will be more practical, others will be more academic, but all will relate to the psychology and neuroscience of advertising.

Advertising Voodoo Articles

Advertising VooDoo #1: Incongruous Information = Stopping Power
Advertising VooDoo #2: Information Incongruency Applied
Advertising Voodoo #3: The Exposure Effect
Advertising Voodoo #4: Right Isn’t Always Right