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WSU Study: Gender-Specific Brain Activity, Math Anxiety Affect Consumer Habits

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Twelve Oaks Mall

(credit: oaklandmall.com)

DETROIT — While many people are scrambling to wrap up their holiday shopping, new research from  Wayne State University shows that women and men are distinctively different when making purchase decisions, even at a preconscious level.

William Jones, assistant professor in the School of Business Administration, just completed the first neuromarketing study of consumer brain activity and math anxiety during purchase decisions. Results indicate that math anxiety, promotion format and gender combine to influence consumer purchase decisions. When a shopper is presented with an item and a price, brain activity (as measured using EEG) shows consumers decide to purchase a product or not purchase before they consciously realize it, within 200 milliseconds.

“Math anxiety exerts its effects beyond the classroom and in situations like shopping at a preconscious level, particularly in high math-anxiety women,” says Jones. “Women are more sensitive to pricing than men, at least neurally. Taking into account effects of gender, evidence suggests women are more sensitive and aware of prices than men. Perhaps not surprisingly, men rely on a limited set of details whereas females are comprehensive processors that consider a broader variety of information cues, both apparent and subtle when making decisions.”

This study, while seeming to confirm the belief in shopping differences between men and women, incorporates the role math anxiety plays in purchasing decisions, and it’s now supported by biologically recorded data.

Jones was the lead researcher on a team that included Terry L. Childers of Iowa State University and Yang Jiang of the University of Kentucky.

The complete study, which will soon be published in the academic journal Biological Psychology, can be viewed at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051111002638.

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