Van der Laan, L.N., De Ridder, D.T.D., Viergever, M.A., & Smeets, P.A.M. (2012). Appearance matters: Neural correlates of food choice and packaging aesthetics. PLoS One, 7 (7), e41738. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041738

Abstract: Neuro-imaging holds great potential for predicting choice behavior from brain responses. In this study we used both traditional mass-univariate and state-of-the-art multivariate pattern analysis to establish which brain regions respond to preferred packages and to what extent neural activation patterns can predict realistic low-involvement consumer choices. More specifically, this was assessed in the context of package-induced binary food choices. Mass-univariate analyses showed that several regions, among which the bilateral striatum, were more strongly activated in response to preferred food packages. Food choices could be predicted with an accuracy of up to 61.2% by activation patterns in brain regions previously found to be involved in healthy food choices (superior frontal gyrus) and visual processing (middle occipital gyrus). In conclusion, this study shows that mass-univariate analysis can detect small package-induced differences in product preference and that MVPA can successfully predict realistic low-involvement consumer choices from functional MRI data.

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