Background and purpose: The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how individual economic decisions are influenced by implicit memory contributions.
Methods: Twenty-two participants were asked to make binary decisions between different brands of sensorily nearly undistinguishable consumer goods. Changes of brain activity comparing decisions in the presence or absence of a specific target brand were detected by fMRI.
Results: Only when the tar get brand was the participant's favorite one did the authors find reduced activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal, posterior parietal, and occipital cortices and the left premotor area (Brodmann areas [BA] 9, 46, 7/19, and 6). Simultaneously, activity was increased in the inferior precuneus and posterior cingulate (BA 7), right superior frontal gyrus (BA 10), right supramarginal gyrus (BA 40), and, most pronounced, in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (BA 10).
Conclusions: For products mainly distinguishable by brand information, the authors revealed a nonlinear winner-take-all effect for a participant's favorite brand characterized, on one hand, by reduced activation in brain areas associated with working memory and reasoning and, on the other hand, increased activation in areas involved in processing of emotions and self-reflections during decision making.