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Goto, Nobuhiko; Mushtaq, Faisal; Shee, Dexter; Lim, Xue Li; Mortazavi, Matin; Watabe, Motoki; Schäfer, Alexandre (2017): Neural signals of selective attention are modulated by subjective preferences and buying decisions in a virtual shopping task. In: Biological Psychology, Vol. 128: pp. 11-20
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Abstract

We investigated whether well-known neural markers of selective attention to motivationally-relevant stimuli were modulated by variations in subjective preference towards consumer goods in a virtual shopping task. Specifically, participants viewed and rated pictures of various goods on the extent to which they wanted each item, which they could potentially purchase afterwards. Using the event-related potentials (ERP) method, we found that variations in subjective preferences for consumer goods strongly modulated positive slow waves (PSW) from 800 to 3000 milliseconds after stimulus onset. We also found that subjective preferences modulated the N200 and the late positive potential (LPP). In addition, we found that both PSW and LPP were modulated by subsequent buying decisions. Overall, these findings show that well-known brain event-related potentials reflecting selective attention processes can reliably index preferences to consumer goods in a shopping environment. Based on a large body of previous research, we suggest that early ERPs (e.g. the N200) to consumer goods could be indicative of preferences driven by unconditional and automatic processes, whereas later ERPs such as the LPP and the PSW could reflect preferences built upon more elaborative and conscious cognitive processes.