Beyond visual experience: Brain activity reflecting sensory experiences implied by the product design


Chai-Youn Kim, Department of Psychology, Korea University, Seongbuk-Gu, Anam-Dong, Seoul 136-701, Korea. (E-mail:


The present study investigates the neural mechanisms underlying consumer perception of products with visual designs that are accompanied by additional, implied sensory experiences. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) results showed that those brain areas involved in the actual perception of the relevant sensory stimuli were also involved in the sensory experience implied by the product design. The postcentral gyrus, SMA, and MT+ regions were associated with the kinesthetic experiences implied, whereas the insula was associated with the implied gustatory experiences. In addition, the caudate nucleus was involved in the participants' perception of designs implying the additional sensory experiences in general. The behavioral results echoed the neural results in the caudate nucleus. Participants preferred, remembered better, and showed greater buying intention for those products with implied sensory experiences compared to control stimuli, which were highly similar but lacked those features implying other sensory experiences. These results suggest that a product with a sensory experience implied by its design successfully recruits brain areas responsible for the corresponding sensory processes and also represents a positive reward to consumers.