Neuromarketing MSc Elective

This course introduces the interdisciplinary field of neuromarketing. This new and exciting area in marketing aims to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying customer responses to marketing actions, and to better predict customer behavior using brain markers. Neuromarketing is proposed to reveal information about customer preferences and reactions to marketing actions that other techniques cannot provide (Ariely and Berns, 2010). This is based on the assumption that customers are not always able or willing to express their true preferences in questionnaires. Furthermore, measures of brain activation could assist in the early stages of the product or advertising development process thus reducing the likelihood of failures.

In recent years, the application of neuroimaging and psychophysical techniques in marketing has surged both in academia and in marketing practice. Modern brain imaging techniques of electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are commonly applied, for example, to track the emotional response to brands and TV commercials, to assess which scenes of a commercial attract attention and are memorable, to evaluate the beauty of a package or how customers trade-off price and quality. Psychophysical techniques such as eye-tracking, galvanic skin response and heart rate measurement add additional insights into the customers’ heart and mind.

Currently, most marketers are not trained in these techniques and thus have difficulty in properly evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. Clients of neuromarketing companies may get easily impressed by colorful pictures of activations in the brain which may not be truly insightful or predictive. In this course we provide the student with an up to date insight into the current body of knowledge in consumer neuroscience and neuromarketing. Accordingly, this course will provide many hands-on opportunities to develop neuromarketing skills. In assignments, the main neuroimaging techniques of fMRI and EEG will be introduced. You will collect data and learn the basics of analyzing this data.

Minor Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Decides

Economics, psychology, and neuroscience are converging today into the unified discipline of Neuroeconomics with the ultimate aim of providing a single, general theory of human choice behaviour. Neuroeconomics can provide social scientists and future managers with a deeper understanding of how they make their own decisions, and how others decide. How is a “good” or “fair” decision evaluated by the brain? What does our brain perceive as valuable? How do we learn the value of features of our environment? Is it possible to predict the purchasing intentions of a consumer? Are we hard-wired to be risk-averse or risk-taking?

Neuroscience allied to psychology, economics and management theory provides powerful models and advanced brain-research methods to explain how and why people make certain choices. Risky decision-making in financial markets, the role of emotions versus rationality, competition and cooperation in teams, consumer persuasion, are some of the central issues in this course in neuroeconomics. You will be provided with the most recent evidence from brain-imaging studies, and you will be introduced to the explanatory models behind them.

The course will consist of four modules. In Module 1: “How the Brain Works”, we discuss the history of neuroeconomics and provide a crash-course on the anatomy of the brain, as well as an introduction to neuroscience methods. Subsequently, we will investigate the balance between rationality and emotions, and provide a brief introduction into decision-theory form both a psychologist and an economist perspective in Module 2: “Perspectives on Decision-Making”. In Module 3: “How the Brain Decides”, students will be presented with the main theories and neuroscientific findings accounting for how the brain makes (optimal) economic choices. We will focus on the neural mechanisms of the computation of value and preference, and how the brain deals with risk and losses. In addition, this module focuses on social aspects of decision-making: how group-membership and social interactions shape individuals’ decision-making. Finally, the practical applications of brain research in the fields of economics, marketing, business, and other aspects of society will be discussed in Module 4: “The Brain in Society”. 

Erasmus Honours: Decision making and the brain

Different disciplines research how people make decisions. An economist’s interest will be in predicting human choices, whereas a psychologist will try to establish which mental processes underlie decision making.  Neurobiologists, on the other hand, are traditionally reductionists, and will try to describe decision making behaviour in terms of neural pathways and processes.

Until about ten years ago these disciplines were strictly separated, but since that time their subject matter and methods have started to merge. The resultant synthesis, known as Neuroeconomics, assumes valuable insights can be gleaned for all three mother disciplines using this new discipline.

Recent studies support this assumption, and the amount of relevant literature is on the rise. In 1998 there were less than 20 publications about Neuroeconomics, compared to more than 200 in recent years alone.