Microeconomic theory maintains that purchases are driven by a combination of consumer preference and price. Using event-related fMRI, we investigated how people weigh these factors to make purchasing decisions. Consistent with neuroimaging evidence suggesting that distinct circuits anticipate gain and loss, product preference activated the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), while excessive prices activated the insula and deactivated the mesial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) prior to the purchase decision. Activity from each of these regions independently predicted immediately subsequent purchases above and beyond self-report variables. These findings suggest that activation of distinct neural circuits related to anticipatory affect precedes and supports consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Knutson, B., Rick, S., Wimmer, G. E., Prelec, D., &Loewenstein, G. (2007). Neural predictors of purchases. Neuron, 53(1), 147-156.