Neuroscientists discover way to increase product value without making changes to it

March 10, 2014 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
Neuroscientists discover way to increase product value without making changes to it
Imaging results from the probe phase. Credit: Nature Neuroscience (2014) doi:10.1038/nn.3673

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at the University of Texas has discovered a way to cause the perceived value of a product to rise, without changing the product itself: add a button that makes noise. In their paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the team describes experiments they conducted with various volunteers which together suggested that adding a button along with a noise, caused participants to value those associated products more highly.

The idea is simple, though it's difficult to understand why it works. The most basic experiment conducted by the team involved having volunteers look at images of food on a computer screen (after fasting for a minimum of four hours). Prior to looking at the images, each volunteer was asked to state how much they would be willing to pay for general . As the volunteers watched, pictures of food were presented, some with a button they were requested to push when they heard an associated noise. Afterwards, each participant was asked to choose between two food items that they had deemed of equal value prior to the assignment—they chose the item associated with the button and noise 60-65 percent of the time. When queried afterwards, most of the volunteers said they would pay more for that item as well. Thus, the researchers had caused an increase of value perception in the volunteers without altering the itself.

The team conducted other experiments as well that involved pre-training , mixing differently valued items together and mitigating extra time spent looking at an item due to the button pushing and noise making, and found nearly the same results.

The researchers suggest that the change in perceived value of food items in the experiment likely came about as a result of activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain believed to be involved in decision making and comparison. Adding a response mechanism, apparently tips the balance in favor of an already desired product over another. The team also suggests that their findings might help dieticians design vending machines that could help people choose foods that are healthier for them. Of course, it seems that food makers (and the companies that make advertisements for them) could use the same results to cause people to pay more for foods they already like.

Explore further: Study indicates willpower not depleted by use nor replenished by food

More information: Changing value through cued approach: an automatic mechanism of behavior change, Nature Neuroscience (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nn.3673

Abstract
It is believed that choice behavior reveals the underlying value of goods. The subjective values of stimuli can be changed through reward-based learning mechanisms as well as by modifying the description of the decision problem, but it has yet to be shown that preferences can be manipulated by perturbing intrinsic values of individual items. Here we show that the value of food items can be modulated by the concurrent presentation of an irrelevant auditory cue to which subjects must make a simple motor response (i.e., cue-approach training). Follow-up tests showed that the effects of this pairing on choice lasted at least 2 months after prolonged training. Eye-tracking during choice confirmed that cue-approach training increased attention to the cued items. Neuroimaging revealed the neural signature of a value change in the form of amplified preference-related activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Related Stories

Study indicates willpower not depleted by use nor replenished by food

August 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A team composed of researchers from Stanford University and the University of Zurich has found evidence that suggests willpower is not depleted by use, nor replenished by glucose. In their paper, published ...

Study indicates visual adaptation enhanced by sleep and may be tied to memory

August 28, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at University College in London has conducted a study that suggests that visual adaptation is enhanced by sleep and might also be tied to memory. In their paper published in Proceedings ...

Researchers find humans process echo location and echo suppression differently

August 28, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of German researchers has found that human beings listening to sounds that have a corresponding echo, process the sounds differently depending on whether they are using echo location or echo suppression. ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

January 16, 2018
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: "No, that's hilarious. [...] It's like ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JVK
not rated yet Mar 10, 2014
Snap, Crackle, Pop! Is that what made the breakfast cereal more popular?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.