Assistant Professor, Marketing Department
Expertise: Decision neuroscience, decision-making, decision bias, and neuromarketing
Neuromarketing, coined as the place where brain science and marketing meet, is an emerging sector of research aimed at determining how and why consumers make buying decisions. Bill Hedgcock, Assistant Professor in the Marketing Department at the University of Iowa, is on the cutting edge of this new field with his research in decision-making and decision bias.
In short, Hedgcock’s research looks at how the brain reacts when given choices while making a purchasing decision. He uses complex brain imaging to identity which parts of the brain are activated during this process.
“When people make decisions between two options, sometimes they have a difficult time choosing,” explains Hedgcock. “For instance, if one option is better on quality and the other is better on price, negative emotions are generated because consumers want to have both good quality and a good price.”
By studying brain images, Hedgcock found that introducing a third option reduced the amount of negative emotions experienced and the decision became easier for consumers to make. The presence of a third option that is clearly inferior to one of the choices makes consumers generally feel better about making a decision. Hedgcock used this theory as a basis for one of his studies on trade-off aversion.
“One of the questions we asked was about houses. Do they prefer a larger house that costs more money or a smaller house that costs less money? Most people prefer the larger house and for it to cost less money, so choosing between the two generates this negative emotion where there’s a trade-off between the size of the house and the cost.”
Hedgcock said that by adding a third option, a small house that was expensive, participants easily chose the smaller, less expensive house. Brain scans revealed that there was less negative emotions and that fewer calculations were going on during the decision-making process. This means that people made a quicker decision without feeling bad about it when a third option was presented to them.
So what does this mean for the average consumer? Many online shopping sites, such as Amazon, may already be using techniques that influence purchases by using recommended products and “products you might like.”
With researchers like Dr. Bill Hedgcock leading the way, neuromarketing is fast becoming a hot topic in marketing. Although more research is needed to fully understand all of the complex workings of the mind on marketing, it’s exciting to be right in the midst of if here at the Marketing Career Academy at Tippie.