The research team set out to investigate whether brand images had a visible effect on the brain, and chose Coke and Pepsi because both products were so similar, yet provoked strong opinions in many people.And just in case that I have contributed to the Coke Conspiracy to Brainwash you, here's an image that should undo the damage.
"Coca-Cola and Pepsi are nearly identical in chemical composition, yet humans routinely display a strong subjective preference for one or another," Dr McClure said.
"This simple observation raises the important question of how cultural messages combine with content to shape our perceptions, even to the point of modifying behavioural preferences for a primary reward such as a sugared drink."
In the study, 67 volunteers were asked whether they preferred Pepsi or Coke and then were given a blind taste test while their brains were scanned during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The technique measures activity in different regions of the brain by charting the flow of blood to particular areas.
The subjects were then scanned again, while their sips were preceded by a picture of either a Coke or Pepsi can flashed onto a screen. This produced a very different set of brain responses. When a Coke can was displayed it activated other parts of the brain as well. A Pepsi can, however, did not have the same effect. The results, reported today in the journal Neuron, suggest that Coke's branding has been so successful that it stimulates a cultural preference in the brain that might sometimes override preferences based solely on taste.
"There are visual images and marketing messages that have insinuated themselves into the nervous system of humans that consume the drinks," Dr McClure said.
Monday, 18 October 2004
Today's Brain link is to a story in the Times, via The Australian :