What You Really Want to Buy

Marketing goes to the next level by hooking consumers up to machines and reading their brains. But do the results tell the whole story?

Forget focus groups. Companies that want feedback on a product are getting inside consumers' heads—literally. The latest rage in marketing involves harnessing a test subject to a narrow shelf, securing the head tightly, and introducing the body into the tube of a $3 million functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (FMRI). For about $1,000 per hour, researchers flash images for their tightly trussed subjects, play advertisements, and read promotional literature. All the while, they study the second-by-second response of the brain.

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