Reacting to Advertising

A USF business professor is working with a research team to analyze how people respond to advertising.


Video: Katy Hennig | USF News 

By Katy Hennig

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 6, 2012) - It's no secret that advertising can make you buy things you never thought you wanted, but could it actually change the way your brain works?


Adam Craig, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of South Florida, is working with a group of researchers in the neuroscience field to find out exactly what advertising does to a person's brain. The researchers are using brain imaging to analyze the way people respond to advertising and the financial decisions they make. 


Using a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner or fMRI, the research team has conducted analysis on data from brain scans in several advertising and consumer studies.


“The great thing about the neuroscience techniques that we’re using in these studies is we can measure some of those processes without people being able to tell us about it,” said Craig.


In a recently published article in the Journal of Marketing Research, “Suspicious Minds: Exploring Neural Processes During Exposure to Deceptive Advertising,” Craig and fellow researchers analyzed the brain scans of consumers after they were exposed to deceptive advertising. The study pinpointed stages of the thought process behind deciding whether we believe a claim made by advertisers or which brand we choose to buy and why.


“This helps us figure out, okay what parts of the brain are active at different times during exposure to advertising or whatever decisions people are faced with?”


During the study the fMRI tracks the blood flow to specific areas of the brain and the statistical output is later analyzed to produce an image depicting the decision process.


“We saw that there were really two stages of processing involved when people are seeing these potentially deceptive ads,” said Craig. “A lot of what we’re seeing in neuroscience and neuroeconomic research is that most of the decisions that we make are actually automatic. Most of the processes in the brain are automatic and are done without us actually being aware of it.”


The fMRI research study provides insight to help us understand a little more about how we as consumers think about and make buying decisions.


“As an informed consumer you have to first understand what the intentions of marketers are, and the specific mechanisms that they are using to influence us.“


Craig conducted the study and published “Suspicious Minds: Exploring Neural Processes During Exposure to Deceptive Advertising,” with Yuliya Komarova Loureiro, Stacy Wood, and Jennifer M.C. Vendemia. The fMRI research was conducted through the University of South Carolina and gathered at The McCausland Center for Brain Imaging.


Craig is currently teaching undergraduate-level courses in Buyer Behavior and in Marketing Research at USF’s College of Business.


Katy Hennig can be reached at 813-974-6993.