Neural Correlates of Impulsive Buying Tendencies during Perception of Product Packaging


Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Ass. Prof. Dr. Marco Hubert, Department of Corporate Management and Economics, Zeppelin University, Am Seemooser Horn 20, 88045 Friedrichshafen, Germany (


Research has shown that people differ in their susceptibility to impulsive buying. The appeal of product packaging has the potential to trigger impulsive buying even for consumers with no intention to make a purchase. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether individual differences in consumers’ impulsive buying tendencies affect unconscious neural responses during the perception of product packaging. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was applied to measure neural responses to the perception of product packages in participants with different impulsive buying tendencies. The results of the study support and expand prior research in impulsive and reflective information processing and behavior. First, attractive versus neutral packages evoked more intensive activity changes in brain regions associated with an impulsive system. Second, attractive and unattractive versus neutral packages led to less intensive activity changes in regions associated with a reflective system. Third, attractive packages activated regions associated with reward, whereas unattractive packages activated regions associated with negative emotions. The results suggest that there is indeed a corresponding relationship between stronger impulsive buying tendencies and activity in brain areas associated with impulsive and reflective processes.