The burgeoning field of neuromarketing counts a growing number of dedicated events. The most important one is the Neuromarketing World Forum, organized by the NeuroMarketing Science and Business Association: a gathering at the frontier of research and business, attended by universities, business providers, and neuromarketing clients. Another annual milestone is the NeuroPsychoEconomics Conference, which is on the other hand a pure academic event.
Since I had the pleasure to attend these two events this year, and I previously shared my thoughts on the World Forum, I'd like to give here an enthusiastic and totally subjective account of the NeuroPsychoEconomics Conference.
The 2014 edition was held on May 29-30 in Munich, in the Human Science Center of the Ludwig Maximilian University. It was attended by about 50 participants, mostly researchers or students from Europe, with a few visitors from other continents.
The first day was dedicated to a visit of the famous Alte Pinakothek museum, guided by conference co-chair Ernst Poppel. Viewing art through neuroscientist eyes is one of the many research interests of professor Poppel, and the visit was a truly fascinating event, illustrated by splendid works form the Old Masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
What I gathered from this impromptu talk was that art, like all human-made communication, is the crafting of stimuli aimed at evoking specific rational and emotional responses. Therefore, creating and analyzing art is fundamentally studying the structure and function of the human brain. The thousands of years of know-how and experimentation accumulated in the artistic field are thus a true gold mine of insights for neuroscience researchers. I learned, for instance, that the emotional focus is often (in a statistically significant way) placed at the left of paintings, or how the brain can be tricked to see perspective on a flat surface. Truly, neuroscience had never been any more gorgeous.
The conference itself kicked in with a keynote from Professor Antoine Bechara from University of Southern California. There was an interesting symmetry with the keynote from Professor Antonio Damasio concluding the Neuromarketing World Forum, as they are both foremost pioneers in the field of decisional neuroscience. They for instance co-designed the Iowa Gambling Task, a cornerstone experimental protocol in the study of how the brain builds preferences and makes choices. Professor Bechara presented an interesting perspective on the historical developments of the neuromarketing and neuroeconomic fields, and inspiring views on the future directions these fields could take.
The different talks that followed offered a dizzying variety in themes and scope. It was captivating to witness the emergence of a whole new field of research; the breadth of topics born from the junction of neuroscience, psychology, economy or marketing seems potentially boundless. For the sake of this blog, I would tentatively sum up the talks into three broad categories:
How marketing messages are felt, by which mechanisms they elicit responses in the consumers, and how to enhance advertising efficiency
2. Decisional neuroscience
The role of rewards, valuation, and the neural correlates of decision, including of course the buying decision. Of specific interest were the relationships between prefrontal cortex and striatum, and the influence of neuromodulators, notably dopamine and oxytocin
3. Other topics at the border of neuroscience and economics/marketing
Theses includes ideas as diverse as the study of brain resources allocation from an economy viewpoint, the neural correlates of personality and sales strategies of salesman types, or research on the demographics of neuromarketing practitioners
These event-packed two days were an enriching experience, proving once again that it is at the border between established fields that true innovation is born. Economy, biology, psychology, marketing, or art, have definitely a lot of things to say to each other, and every field can greatly benefit from this communication.
Also, the beer was delicious.