Andreas Pedroni, Susan Mérillat, Anja Dieckmann, Volker Bosch, Lutz Jäncke
Humans may differ remarkably in their preferences for objectively similar rewards. Brand preferences, for instance, largely account for differences in shopping behaviour. In the present functional MRI study, we explore whether subjective brand preferences can be measured on the neural level. For this purpose, we implement a wheel-of-fortune game comprising a prospect phase and a subsequent outcome evaluation phase.
Participants played for vouchers that they could redeem for sneakers of three differentially preferred brands. The results clearly demonstrate that neural activation in structures related to reward processing is linearly associated with the subjective brand preference hierarchy. Further, modulation of neural activity by preferred brands occurs in distinct neural regions during prospect and evaluation phases. Playing for more preferred compared to less preferred brands evokes an intensified state of wanting in the participant and facilitates action preparation—a mechanism that may underlie approach behaviour in real-life choice situations.
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