NEWS6 October 2011

Lindstrom brain science claims ‘unsupported’

North America

US— A group of dozens of scientists have criticised neuromarketing writer Martin Lindstrom for claiming that brain scans show that people “love” their digital devices.

Lindstrom, a branding consultant and author of the books Buyology and Brandwashed, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times last week headlined ‘You love your iPhone. Literally.’ In it he claimed the emotions people experience when their phone rings are the same ones they feel when around their loved ones. The claim was based on fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain-scanning experiments he conducted with US firm MindSign Neuromarketing.

But in a letter to the paper’s editor, Russell Poldrack of the University of Texas at Austin and 44 other neuroscientists from seven countries say Lindstrom’s evidence does not support his conclusion.

His claim that the brain’s insular cortex is associated with love and compassion ignores the fact that this part of the brain is active in “as many as one third of all brain imaging studies”, the scientists say, and is more often associated with negative than positive emotion.

Lindstrom’s conclusions were based on flawed reasoning, they said, since “there is rarely a one-to-one mapping between any brain region and a single mental state”.

The writers also expressed surprise that The New York Times had published claims “that lack scientific validity”. Poldrack puts it more bluntly on his own blog, headlining his post ‘NYT Op-Ed + fMRI = complete crap’.

The iPhone experiment is one of the studies in Lindstrom’s latest book, Brandwashed, which uses neuroscience to look at how companies persuade us to buy. His 2008 book Buyology also used brain-scanning studies, conducted in partnership with neuroscientists from the University of Oxford. But Lindstrom has been criticised for drawing simplistic conclusions and not publishing full results from his work.


1 Comment

13 years ago

This guy has me reaching for the neuro-fen. Is he single-handedly trying to destroy all the advances that neuroscience is offering or simply trying to sell books by being sensationalist? The scientist behind the fMRI studies in 'Buyology', Professor Gemma Calvert, told an Esomar seminar this year that she did not support LIndstrom's conclusions from those studies, that she told him but that he ignored her view. Presumably the facts got in the way of a good story....again.

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