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Consumer Neuroscience 2015 Symposium Assesses Progress, Highlights New Research

September 28, 2015
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Consumer neuroscientists from around the world gathered at the School of Business in September to discuss the state of their relatively new field of study and hear from colleagues on current research.

The Consumer Neuroscience 2015 Symposium, in its fourth year and for the third time hosted by the University of Miami School of Business Administration, has doubled in size since inception to 120 participants.  

“That’s indicative of neuroscience applications and interdisciplinary research in general taking a lot of tools from linguistics or computer science and opening up a whole new realm of opportunity for us,” said Andrew Leone, the School’s vice dean of faculty, in his opening remarks. “We’ve done a lot to promote that here at the business school.”

Angelika Dimoka of Temple University shared details of a recently published project where she and her team at Temple’s Center for Neural Decision Making spent six months analyzing data from the Advertising Research Foundation and found they could indeed use neuroscience to better predict advertising success. Kuhnen explained her research on people who grow up in poorer economic circumstances being more pessimistic and less likely to invest in the market, while Huber talked about his efforts to prove that people’s consumer choices are determined quickly.

Operating in a field of study that only dates back 10 to 15 years is not without its challenges. The panel agreed that to help economic neuroscientists achieve tenure at business schools, they need to convince the top research journals to publish their papers and heralded a recent special issue of the Journal of Marketing Research that was born out the conference a few years ago. Joel Huber of Duke University, a longtime journal editor, advised the crowd to coauthor papers with researchers in other disciplines.

Getting published in the finance journals is particularly difficult for economic neuroscientists because there simply aren’t many people skilled enough to review the work, Kuhnen said. Touching on the difficulty of achieving tenure, she encouraged participants to pursue more mainstream topics in addition to neuroscience economic research because business schools are hesitant to promote people they cannot fit into a box.

But Leone offered reassurances: “Business schools are learning about other potential applications and methods that apply to our setting so I’m more optimistic. There are still the same kinds of opportunities in the tenure process. You have to garner some extra papers but ultimately, you have to have a portfolio where some of your expertise is applied in your discipline and, at least in our school, it can be in other fields, too.”

In the remaining two sessions, chaired by University of Miami’s Milica Mormann and Henrik Cronqvist, researchers presented their papers. University of Miami PhD candidate William Bazley presented “Color, Risk Preferences and Investment Decisions.” When researchers presented people with stock charts coded by color, he said, they found that color does affect a person’s perception of a stock. Red causes people to view it negatively, while blue and black have no effect.

Other topics ranged from how testosterone increases preference for status goods (Amos Nadler from Ivey Business School in Canada) to how age affects people’s risk-taking in their financial decisions (Vinod Venkatraman from Temple University). “The conference brings the community together, and it’s useful to know what others are doing,” Venkatraman said after absorbing all the presentations. “It’s also small enough that people are willing to ask questions about where the field is headed.”
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