Brain whisperers: Cutting through the clutter with neuromarketing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The development of the field of neuromarketing piggybacks on growing interest in the neurosciences associated with the development of new brain imaging technology and recent theorizations of the role played by emotion in consumer decision making. Neuromarketers assert that people's bodies are, for marketing purposes, more truthful than the words they utter, promising direct access to formerly concealed aspects of consumer desire. This article situates the promise to bypass the vagaries of discourse with techniques for reading the body within the broader context of a changing information environment and the forms of reflexive awareness of the partial and constructed character of narrative forms of representation. It explores the uptake by neuromarketers of recent theories that posit emotional responses as integral to the process of rational decision making. This uptake repositions marketers as adjuncts to rational deliberation rather than threats to it and the forms of autonomy and citizenship with which it is associated. However, the article argues that neuromarketers’ claims to bypass mediation and the impasses of representation break down upon further examination. In the end, an examination of the recent literature on the topic indicates that neuromarketers – like data miners – are more interested in potentially useful correlations than in underlying explanations. Their portrayal of neuromarketing as a technique for accessing what consumers’ ‘really’ feel amounts to a misreading of their own project, which might be more properly understood as the development of techniques for making probabilistic predictions about the behaviour of populations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-215
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Neuromarketing
  • Digital media
  • Emotions
  • Decision making
  • Body language

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