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Several specific regions of our brains are activated in a two-part process when we are exposed to deceptive advertising, according to new research conducted by a North Carolina State University professor. The work opens the door to further research that could help us understand how brain injury and aging may affect our susceptibility to fraud or misleading marketing.
The study utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to capture images of the brain while study participants were shown a series of print advertisements. The fMRI images allowed researchers to determine how consumers’ brains respond to potentially deceptive advertising. “We did not instruct participants to evaluate the ads. We wanted to mimic the passive exposure to advertising that we all experience every day,” says Dr. Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.
Participants were exposed to three pre-tested advertisements that were deemed “highly believable,” “moderately deceptive” or “highly deceptive.” The ads were also pre-tested to ensure that they were for products that consumers found equally interesting and desirable — leaving the degree of deception as the only significant variable.