How are emotional responses measured with neuromarketing?

The importance of emotions in advertising has been well established (Binet and Field 2009). Electroencephalography (EEG) has proven to be an excellent technique for measuring emotional motivation at a nonconscious level in frontal asymmetry cues (Davidson et al. 1990; Coan and Allen 2004; Harmon-Jones, Gable, and Peterson 2010). Evoked potentials have also been used to assess response to brands and brand attributes. While there are limitations to EEG in terms of understanding the precise brain regions that are active, the signals have a higher temporal resolution than fMRI and allow marketers to understand the onset of a brain response with a few hundred signals. millisecond precision (Niedermeyer and da Silva 2004).


Marketing researchers have turned to EEG to measure emotions as they have become increasingly skeptical about measuring the emotional impact of television commercials on consumers based solely on their verbal responses, which do not provide a measure of emotional impact. effectiveness of subconscious responses to such stimuli, in addition to the fact that they are difficult to measure with self-reports alone, due to their complexity and a greater probability of obtaining socially acceptable responses. In addition, there are many aspects beyond the control of the consumer that are difficult to record with surveys or self-reports.

Ohme et al. (2010) used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure prefrontal cortex responses to three Sony television commercials and found dominant left prefrontal cortex reactions, indicating attraction to one of the tested commercials. They concluded that measurements of frontal asymmetry can be a valid resource to study the emotional potential of commercials.

Functional MRI has also been used to measure emotional responses. Morris et al. (2008) investigated which brain regions produced emotional responses to five television commercials, consistent with the PAD (Pleasure, Arousal, and Dominance) emotional measurement paradigm. They found significant differences in bilateral activations in the inferior frontal gyri and middle temporal gyri associated with difference in pleasure dimension, and activations in the right superior temporal gyrus and right middle frontal gyrus associated with difference in pleasure dimension. excitement.

Several investigations on prefrontal responses of emotion and motivation have postulated the existence of two general motivational systems that organize behavior: one, linked to a possible desirable result, and another, associated to a possible aversive result.

Based on empirical evidence with EEG, Davidson, Schwartz, Saron, Bennett and Goleman (1979) proposed a model linking frontal asymmetry with emotional states. They proposed that the left prefrontal cortex (PFC) would be involved in a system that facilitates approach behavior to pleasurable stimuli, while the right PFC would be involved in a system that facilitates withdrawal behavior from aversive stimuli.

This model assumes that emotional valence-related processing itself is not lateralized in the PFC. Rather, emotional lateralization would be associated with the fact that emotions contain components of approach or distance. Therefore, the emotion will be associated with a left or right asymmetry depending on the degree to which it is accompanied by approaching or withdrawing behavior.

Davidson, Marshall, Tomarken, and Henriques (2000) hypothesized that the approach and withdrawal systems would be associated with emotions prior to goal achievement; that is, emotions that are normally generated when trying to achieve a goal. For example, the approach system would be associated with the enthusiasm, but not with satisfaction, which would be considered an emotion subsequent to the achievement of the goal.

Different contexts can provide information about the function of an emotion. Some authors also emphasized the importance of function in context for understanding emotions. To date, numerous independent studies have examined the relationship between emotion or emotion-related constructs and asymmetries in EEG activity in the frontal cortex.

The study by Ohme et al. (2010) showed that Davidson's emotional frontal asymmetry model can be applied to analyze emotional responses to television commercials and can even be validated with electromyographic (EMG) measurements of facial muscle responses to positive or negative emotional expressions. negative.

Despite the limitations that the paradigm of the asymmetry of some brain functions may have, be they frontal or from other brain regions, such is the quantity and quality of the empirical evidence that supports Davidson's explanation of frontal asymmetry that the measuring its activity with EEG in the face of market stimuli in general and not just television commercials can be a versatile tool to understand the brain's reactions to any stimulus in terms of cognitive and affective processes related to brands, products, commercial campaigns and advertisements , not only on television but in the digital media that predominate today.

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In summary, the use of EEG in neuromarketing has significantly enriched the market research portfolio and can continue to help marketers to analyze more deeply the emotional impacts in the temporal sequences of advertising spots both on television, YouTube or any other digital audiovisual medium. It has become common for companies offering neuromarketing research services to use EEG in combination with other neurophysiological measurement techniques such as EMG and electrodermal, cardiac, respiratory, and eye-tracking responses, in addition to validation with traditional methods self-reports, as well as reaction time measures and behavioral indices.


Binet L, Field P. (2009). Empirical generalizations about advertising campaign success. Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 113–114.

Coan JA, Allen JJB. (2004). Frontal EEG asymmetry as a moderator and mediator of emotion. Biological Psychology, 67, 7–49.

Davidson RJ, Ekman P, Saron CD, Senulis JA, Friesen WV. (1990). Approach-withdrawal and cerebral asymmetry: Emotional expression and brain physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 330–341.

Davidson RJ, Marshall JR, Tomarken AJ, Henriques JB. (2000). While a phobic waits: Regional brain electrical and autonomic activity in social phobics during anticipation of public speaking. Biological Psychiatry, 47(2), 85–95.

Davidson RJ, Schwartz GE, Saron C, Bennett J, Goleman DJ. (1979). Frontal versus parietal EEG asymmetry during positive and negative affect. Psychophysiology, 16, 202–203.

Harmon-Jones E, Gable PA, Peterson CK. (2010). The role of frontal cortical activity in emotion-related phenomena: A review and update. Biological Psychology, 84, 451–462.

Morris JD, Klahr NJ, Shen F, Villegas J, Wright P, He G, Liu Y. (2009). Mapping a multidimensional emotion in response to television commercials. Hum Brain Mapp. Mar; 30 (3): 789-96.

Niedermeyer E, da Silva FL. (2004). Electroencephalography: Basic principles, clinical applications, and related fields. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Ohme R, Reykowska D, Wiener D, Choromanska A. (2010) Application of frontal EEG asymmetry to advertising research, Journal of Economic Psychology, 31 (5), 785-793.

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