Using Single-Neuron Recording in Marketing: Opportunities, Challenges, and an Application to Fear Enhancement in Communications

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 Last revised: 21 Dec 2014

Moran Cerf

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; New York University (NYU); UCLA Department of Neurosurgery

Eric Greenleaf

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Tom Meyvis

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Vicki Morwitz

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Date Written: November 25, 2014

Abstract

This paper introduces the method of single-neuron recording in humans to marketing and consumer researchers. First, we provide a general description of this methodology, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, and describe findings from previous single-neuron human research. Second we discuss the relevance of this method for marketing and consumer behavior, and more specifically how it could be used to gain insights in the areas of categorization, sensory discrimination, reactions to novel versus familiar stimuli, and recall of experiences. Third, we present a study designed to illustrate how single-neuron studies are conducted and data from them are processed and analyzed. This study examines peoples’ ability to up-regulate (i.e., enhance) the emotion of fear, which has implications for designing effective fear appeals. The study shows that the firing rates of neurons that were previously shown to respond selectively to fearful content, increased with the emotion enhancement instructions, but only for a video that did not automatically evoke substantial fear. We discuss how the findings help illustrate which conclusions can, and cannot, be drawn from single-neuron research.

Keywords: neuroscience, emotions, consumer communication, fear appeals, climate change

JEL Classification: M31, M37

Suggested Citation

Cerf, Moran and Greenleaf, Eric and Meyvis, Tom and Morwitz, Vicki, Using Single-Neuron Recording in Marketing: Opportunities, Challenges, and an Application to Fear Enhancement in Communications (November 25, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2371675 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2371675

Moran Cerf (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

New York University (NYU)

40 W. 4th Street
Suite 900
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

UCLA Department of Neurosurgery

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Eric Greenleaf

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

Tom Meyvis

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

Vicki Morwitz

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

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