In the mind of the shopper

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As an attractive Englishwoman in her early 20s wanders the mall with a set of electrodes affixed to her scalp, David Lewis sees the activity of her alpha and beta brain waves-"the stuff of human thought," he calls it-splashing across his computer screen in a zigzagging mass of red and green. "She's alert but not engaged," he explains, as his subject saunters into an upscale shoe store. Which is true, until she picks up a pair of pink stilettos. Suddenly a colorful explosion of activity cascades across Lewis's screen. "You can see that beta activity on the left side of the brain-the analytical side-falls away," he explains. "Look how quickly the purchase decision takes place!" And indeed, a few minutes later, the cash register rings and the woman strides back into the mall with the pair of heels in a bag. ...

The theory is certainly intriguing: By studying activity in the brain, neuromarketing combines the techniques of neuroscience and clinical psychology to develop insights into how we respond to products, brands and advertisements. From this, marketers hope to understand the subtle nuances that distinguish a dud pitch from a successful campaign. "There's a lot to learn about consumer behavior by opening up the black box," says Harvard University economics professor David Laibson.

"This Is Your Brain on Advertising" by Thomas Mucha, Business 2.0, August 2005

This week begins a new feature that excerpts thought-provoking and newsworthy pieces from magazines, newspapers, Web sites and Web logs relevant to the marketing world.

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