Functional magnetic resonance imaging in consumer research: A review and application


  • The authors are thankful for guidance and constructive comments from the editor, Rajan Nataraajan, and two anonymous reviewers. For helpful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript, the authors thank Andreas Aholt, Antoine Bechara, and Thorsten Teichert, as well as the session participants at the Academy of Marketing Science's Annual Conference, the American Marketing Association's Winter Conference, and the Association for Consumer Research's Annual Conference. This research was supported by generous grants from the Hasso Plattner Research Program and the Google and WPP Marketing Research Awards. The research was completed while the first and the second author were visiting faculty at EGADE Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey.


Although the field of psychology is undergoing an immense shift toward the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the application of this methodology to consumer research is relatively new. To assist consumer researchers in understanding fMRI, this paper elaborates on the findings of prior fMRI research related to consumer behavior and highlights the features that make fMRI an attractive method for consumer and marketing research. The authors discuss advantages and limitations and illustrate the proposed procedures with an applied study, which investigates loss aversion when buying and selling a common product. Results reveal a significantly stronger activation in the amygdala while consumers estimate selling prices versus buying prices, suggesting that loss aversion is associated with the processing of negative emotion. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.