Deﬁning Neuromarketing: Practices and Professional Challenges
Carl Erik Fisher, MD, Lisa Chin, EdD, JD, MA, MPH, and Robert Klitzman, MD
Neuromarketing has recently generated controversies concerning the involvement of medical professionals, and many key questions remain—ones that have potentially important implications for the ﬁeld of psychiatry. Conﬂicting deﬁnitions ofneuromarketing have been proposed, and little is known about the actual practices of companies, physicians, and scientists involved in its practice. This article reviews the history of neuromarketing and uses an exploratory survey of neuromarketing Web sites to illustrate ethical issues raised by this new ﬁeld. Neuromarketing, as currently practiced, is heterogeneous, as companies are offering avariety of technologies. Many companies employ academicians and professionals, but few list their clients or fees. Media coverage of neuromarketing appears disproportionately high compared to the paucity of peer-reviewed reports in the ﬁeld. Companies may be making premature claims about the power of neuroscience to predict consumer behavior. Overall, neuromarketing has important implications foracademic-industrial partnerships, the responsible conduct of research, and the public understanding of the brain. We explore these themes to uncover issues relevant to professional ethics, research, and policy. Of particular relevance to psychiatry, neuromarketing may be seen as an extension of the search for quantiﬁcation and certainty in previously indeﬁnite aspects of human behavior. (HARV REVPSYCHIATRY 2010;18:230–237.) Keywords: bioethics, conﬂicts of interest, ethics, fMRI, neuroethics, neuromarketing, professionalism Psychiatry is increasingly embracing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other neurotechnologies, which carry the promise of revealing the underpinnings of emotions and social interactions. Similarly, various domains have acquired the preﬁx neuro- as brainscience increasingly informs our daily lives, social practices, and intellectual discourses. This collection of new ﬁelds—for example, neuroaesthetics, neurotheology, and neuroeducation—has been labeled neuroculture, and the brain-based explanations arising from it are progressively inﬂuencing public notions of personal identity, responsibility, and causation.1 Neuromarketing, which can be tentativelydeﬁned as marketing designed on the basis of neuroscience research, is one manifestation of this new neuroculture. The ﬁeld offers insights into the development of brain-based narratives and into the potential problems that they might pose for medical ethics and the public understanding of science. Neuromarketing has attracted increasing attention, but critical aspects of it remain underexplored,including what exactly it is or includes, and how it is used in practice. The ﬁeld has already generated controversy. For example, the popular press has reported on the perceived dangers of neuromarketing, including concerns that advertisers might ﬁnd
From the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University; New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY. Supported, in part, by a Doris DukeCharitable Foundation Clinical Research Fellowship (CEF); National Institute of Mental Health training grant no. T32 MH19139 (LC); and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Ofﬁce of Research Integrity grant no. 1R01HG004214-01 (RK). Original manuscript received 27 July 2009; revised manuscript received 2 October 2009, accepted for publication 14 December 2009. Correspondence: Carl ErikFisher, MD, Department of Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Dr., Box 103, New York, NY 10032. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
c 2010 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Harv Rev Psychiatry Volume 18, Number 4
a “buy button” or “magic spot” in the brain;2,3 editorials in the scientiﬁc...