Brain responses to external cues: Studying consumers' visual attention processes with PCN

Letizia Alvino, Rob van der Lubbe, Efthymios Constantinides

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Visual attention is a key component in consumers’ decision-making processes and buying behavior. While shopping, we need to identify, observe, and visually scan different products to eventually select the object that we prefer. External cues of a product, such as its design, packaging, and logo can strongly influence our visual attention and preferences. In marketing, a lot of effort has been directed towards determining the factors that underlie consumers’ visual attention and preferences for external cues. Usually, these studies focus on surveys, self-reports or observations. However, consumer neuroscience studies show that our preferences for a product may be reflected by brain processes even before we display our preference or we make a final decision. Using neuroscience tools, we might be able to improve our understanding of how consumers process visual attention stimuli and which external cues are the most important to catch consumers’ attention. In the present study, we investigated whether the design of different wine labels 1) influences individual preferences and 2) is reflected in changes in brain activity related to visual attention. Using electroencephalography (EEG), the posterior- contralateral-negativity (PCN) was measured to assess whether a certain wine label caught participants’ visual attention. The PCN enables to estimate attentional preferences by focusing on stimulus-side dependent EEG lateralization above parieto-occipital areas. The PCN can be related to the observed behavioral data to determine whether early effects of visual attention confirmed participants’ final preferences for a specific label. The results revealed that the PCN provided relevant information as the view of the four labels resulted in different PCN latencies. A comparison between the PCN and behavioural data also revealed that increased visual attention did not necessarily reflect participants’ preference for that label. This observation suggests that the final decision cannot be fully explained on the basis of initial attentional effects evoked by external cues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 16th Annual NeuroPsychoEconomics Conference
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2020


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