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Exploration has, understandably, never been much associated with caution and humility. After all, if you want to excite people about the unknown, and get them to fund your searches therein, it helps to make some grandiose clams for the treasures that are likely to be found. Martin Lindstrom is an enthusiast of and salesman for the new discipline of neuromarketing, which seeks to bring brain science to bear on understanding how we make economic decisions. In fact, he's so enthusiastic and such a good salesman that it's easy to get caught up in his claims for what we know and may one day know and how that knowledge can and will be applied. Even once you slow down a little and consider his work with a bit more caution, there is still much here to be excited about, enough that I think we can forgive him any excesses.

Thus, while the millions of dollars Mr. Lindstrom's sponsors have spent on fMRI scans (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can show that the same portions of our brains light up in response to religious inputs and to favorite brands, we probably ought not be leaping to too many conclusions as yet about the associations that can be implied. After all, the same spot may be activated when we take a loved one's hand, pet a goat at the zoo, open a can of beans, and brush away a fly, but we'd hesitate to group the qualitative nature of these actions over tightly. At this point in our explorations our instruments still seem rather blunt.

But there was one topic in particular that fascinated me here and I posted about it over at the blog--mirror neurons. The video in that last link is short and explains mirror neurons quite well. It's basically the phenomenon whereby the same neurons fire when we do something ourselves and when we observe someone else doing the same thing, the physical manifestation of empathy if you will. Now, having been especially intrigued by the concepts that Mr. Lindstrom discusses in this regard, I have to be careful not to get ahead of the science myself, but one possibility did occur to me, mostly because I was reading the book in November 2008. What if people--only some people, of course, and we can't know how many--vote for a political candidate less because of anything about the candidate himself and more because of how the people around them and the people they see in the media respond to him? If you turned on a tv this Fall you saw hangdog Republicans grudgingly supporting their nominee but positively euphoric Democrats greeting the advent of Barack Obama as if the Messiah was finally returning. Isn't it possible that something in our brains--if not our souls--moves us to try and mirror that kind of experience because it is so attractive?

At any rate, these are the types of ideas and questions that Mr. Lindstrom's book sparks. An author who gets you thinking these big thoughts is to be admired and his book is well worth your time.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Martin Lindstrom Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Buy-ology (Random House)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Martin Lindstrom
    -Brand Flash (Martin Lindstrom, Ad Age)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Martin Lindstrom (The Leonard Lopate Show, November 12, 2008)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: The 'Buyology' Behind The Way We Shop (Talk of the Nation, December 9, 2008, NPR)
    -VIDEO PROFILE: Martin Lindstrom (ITV Japan)
    -PROFILE: For Customer Information, a Peek Inside Buyers' Heads (Seth Brown, November 3, 2008, Sci-Tech Today)
    -Video: Martin Lindstrom Discusses His New Book Buyology on The Today Show (Doubleday)

    -INTERVIEW: Cool Friend #131: Martin Lindstrom (Tom Peters)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Martin Lindstrom - Buyology (Brad Brooks Show, November 2, 2008)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: The ways stores entice shoppers to buy (Kai Ryssdal, Marketplace)
    -REVIEW: of Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom (Helen Thomson , New Scientist)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology by Martin Lindstrom (Roger Dooley, NeuroscienceMarketing)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology (Lisa Miller, Newsweek)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology (JONAH LEHRER, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology (Seth Brown, USA Today)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology (Stephen Baker, Business Week)
    -REVIEW: of Buyology (Mark Dziersk, Fast Company)

Book-related and General Links: