The Neural Correlates of Buying: Implications For Marketing

The emerging field of neuromarketing attempts to apply “neuroscientific methods to analyze and understand human behaviour in relation to markets and marketing exchanges”(Lee, Broderick, & Chamberlain, 2007). This field has touched on the brain systems associated with the processing of advertisements, as well as those associated with the predictability of choice, pleasure, and reward in the context of buying/shopping (Lee et al., 2007). The current research expands on this through preliminary exploration of brain systems that may be associated with impulse buying, compulsive buying, and shopping ruminations. We hypothesized that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and temporal (TL)/parietal lobes (PL) (with projections from reward processing circuitry) would be differentially implicated in impulse buying, compulsive buying, and shopping ruminations. The medial prefrontal cortex has been previously implicated in collecting behaviors (Anderson, Damasio, & Damasio, 2005) and hence we hypothesized that compulsive buying behavior and excessive shopping ruminations may be associated with the PFC. Sections of the TL and PL have been associated with impulse control/temporal discounting since they receive projections from the subcortical reward processing circuitry, and we hypothesized that they would be associated with impulse buying (Raab, Elger, Neuner, & Weber, 2010; Richards, Zhang, Mitchell, & de Wit, 1999). Our data indicate that compulsive buying may be associated with both prefrontal and temporal and parietal lobes, while shopping ruminations and impulse buying are unique to only temporal and parietal lobes. These preliminary findings may have implications for the field of marketing in further delineating the neural substrates underlying buying behavior. Thus, consumers that impulsively shop need not be compulsive shoppers and vice versa. Based on the nature of a product, particular shopping contexts, and susceptibility to advertisements, this distinction may be relevant to marketers.


Kristin Wiggs, Kanchna Ramchandran, Daniel Tranel, and Levin Irwin (2011) ,"The Neural Correlates of Buying: Implications For Marketing", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 39, eds. Rohini Ahluwalia, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Rebecca K. Ratner, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 785-786.


Kristin Wiggs, University of Iowa, USA
Kanchna Ramchandran, University of Iowa, USA
Daniel Tranel, University of Iowa, USA
Levin Irwin, University of Iowa, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 39 | 2011

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