The recent article, Brain Sells, in the Europe edition of TIME, comments that neuromarketing is “essentially a subgenre of another emerging discipline, neuroeconomics. ” When I scanned that line the first time, I saw a fair amount of truth in that. After all, neuroeconomics covers the general field of the neuroscience of decision-making, while neuromarketing is focused on a rather specific set of behaviors by consumers and business decision-makers.

A little while later, though, I was reading an interesting article on the neuroscience of attention, i.e., what “paying attention” means from a brain activity standpoint. In daily life, people are presented with lots of inputs – people talking to them, broadcast media, things happening around them, etc. , and only a small portion of that is actively processed by the brain. (We’ll cover some of this work in another post.) Clearly, attention is a key part of the marketer’s task; if the message is lost in the cacophony of background noise, the decision-making process will never come into play at all.

So, the neuroscience of attention would clearly be of interest to the neuromarketer, but wouldn’t appear to fall under the discipline of neuroeconomics at all. There are probably other examples like this, too. This leads me to conclude that neuromarketing is less a subset of neuroeconomics than a sibling discipline with a lot of overlap in some areas.

But, enough semantic hair-splitting. I thought Grose’s TIME article did a good job of presenting a brief, balanced view of how brain science may be applied to marketing, and I’m more than willing to let this picky point slide. :)

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