Quite inarguably, one of the most expressed concerns in the field of Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing are the underlying ethics involved in conducting such research. While there are various philosophical perspectives on the issue of ‘unlocking’ the code to the minds of the consumer, it must be noted that there are certain boundaries set in the process. One would make a massive mistake to assume that such neuroscienctific research can persuade people into doing whatever the company desired in the market. Most consumer neuroscience research in branding, marketing and advertising only tends to explain a certain extent of how a consumer reacts to presented stimuli, and consumption studies only explain a certain variance in buying behaviour or formed preferences
It is also assumed that most of the consumers tend to be more intuitive and emotional rather than rational and systematic in their approach. While in most of the cases this might be true, there are individual factors that come into play and research in this field must only be considered as another assistive function such as FGD’s, Surveys, Observation studies etc. In fact- it must be noted that other forms of quantitative and qualitative research explain buying behaviour in a much more wholesome manner than Neuromarketing/ Consumer Neuroscience studies as such studies observe behaviour directly.
However this research only gives the market researchers an idea of ‘what’ is occurring as a phenomenon and not much about ‘why’ or ‘how’. While there are various psychology-oriented consumer behaviour studies such as the ‘Theory of Planned Behaviour’ or ‘The Theory of Reasoned Action’ which do try to explain the motivation and factors, contributing in favour or against a particular behaviour or preference formation, there is no observed neurological underpinning of the same. Consumer Neuroscience thus is not only a field which enables market researchers or marketers to understand why and how a particular phenomenon occurs but also contributes in its own way to the field of cognitive neuroscience.
To relate to this – let us take a simple example: A company wishes to produce an advertisement and has produced 10 different colour variants of a certain advertisement (All other factors are kept constant) to check which ones are liked the most by a consumer. The Advertisement is shown to 100 people, and based upon that they have found out that a clear majority of the consumers are significantly fond of Colour ‘X’. Added neurological measures such as Eye Tracking or the EEG to such a study will only be able to explain why, and what are the neural areas activated or correlated on forming this preference towards the colour ‘X’- which only adds a qualitative dimension to the observation and explains the underlying cognitive processes. This helps us understand how our brains function. Such studies can contribute purely to the field of cognitive neuroscience in a broad manner and only support other traditional forms of market research.
At IRIANS we are very particular about the kind of research we take up. After all, a lot depends upon the companies, products and services undertaken. An article titled ‘’Ethical issues in Neuromarketing: I consumer, therefore I am!’’ by Ulman Et al in 2014 briefly encapsulates what we at IRIANS also stand for. Our code of ethics is oriented around the consumer/ participants first, then the product and finally the client. Our code of ethics addresses the following main topics in detail – Integrity and Credibility, transparency, consent, data protection, participant rights, the sensitivity of certain demographics, publication, commitment and enforcement.
Besides the aforementioned, we at IRIANS run every client and product we conduct research on, through a team of core researchers before taking any project on board- evaluated on the grounds mentioned in our code of ethics and also the type of service or product in focus. On the outset, we wish to contribute not only to consumer related market research and neuromarketing but also to device strategies in order to enhance consumer experiences, customer satisfaction and foster research in the field of cognitive neuroscience.
Co-Founder/ Co- CEO
IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute