What happens in the brain when we go to the supermarket? According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, our mind classifies individual products almost automatically. It evaluates the information we have about different types of goods. How do we fill the shopping cart? According to what criteria do we choose a handbag or a lamp? Is it a difficult or easy decision?
This can be pretty complicated for many of us because different factors come into play: price, quality, or brand loyalty. All of this can affect our decisions. Scientists have developed whole mathematical models for this A study by the American Institute has revealed that the brain produces much simpler considerations and is limited to classifying different products compiled almost automatically based on the information we have about different goods.
It happens quite often that there is a special offer in the supermarket. We then decide whether to put a product at the top of the list of things we want to buy that we did not initially think about. A few years ago, researchers at Stanford University discovered that there was a kind of “headquarters” for shopping in the brain.
“When we go shopping, our brains accompany us. Once we enter the store, the item we want to buy attracts us, while its price discourages us. We are happy to purchase goods, while the potential pain is associated with financial expenses, “explains Gabriela Pravettoni from Milan State University.
Studies performed using functional magnetic resonance imaging show that the preference of one commodity is associated with the activation of a deep structure in our brain called the nucleus accumbens. It plays a vital role in the mechanisms of reward and joy. At the same time, the view of price is associated with the activation of a part of the brain called the insula, which responds to unpleasant stimuli.
“If the insula activates intensively, it is likely we won’t buy the product because our brain is very unhappy that we have to spend money,” La Repubblica quoted Pravettoni. “Many choices in the store are also based on our emotions and often have nothing to do with the need for one or another product, but rather with the feelings it evokes,” explains Anna Cantagall, director of BrainCare. Neuroshopping and neuromarketing deal with what guides people in their purchases and study what is going on in their minds. These are two disciplines increasingly used by shopping centers that shed light on how the act of acquiring goods is governed by the feelings of satisfaction it evokes.
The chemical substance of joy dopamine is produced before the purchase itself. When we see a new-generation mobile phone, dopamine is flushed out in our brains, creating a feeling of joy and forcing us to buy the device. However, this joy is short-lived, so we often no longer feel the satisfaction we experienced when purchasing a new phone when we return home.
When shopping, the brain behaves differently according to gender and age. “A man buys because he needs a particular product, he has a rational approach when shopping, and he feels a certain average satisfaction after it. On the contrary, a woman usually combines the shopping phase with aspects of the emotional type: shopping is more of a desire than a need for her, “explains Pravettoni.
“These differences also depend on the fact that women have a more significant number of mirror neurons, which contribute to empathic behavior. Therefore, they are more sensitive to advertising.
Age also plays a role: we are undoubtedly pickier in adulthood and mature age, and we think more when choosing goods. We buy more rashly during adolescence, “explains Pravettoni.