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Neuromarketing: Ethical Implications of its Use and Potential Misuse

Neuromarketing is an emerging field in which academic and industry research scientists employ neuroscience techniques to study marketing practices and consumer behavior. The use of neuroscience techniques, it is argued, facilitates a more direct understanding of how brain states and other physiological mechanisms are related to consumer behavior and decision making. Herein, we will articulate common ethical concerns with neuromarketing as currently practiced, focusing on the potential risks to consumers and the ethical decisions faced by companies. We argue that the most frequently raised concerns—threats to consumer autonomy, privacy, and control—do not rise to meaningful ethical issues given the current capabilities and implementation of neuromarketing research. But, we identify how potentially serious ethical issues may emerge from neuromarketing research practices in industry, which are largely proprietary and opaque. We identify steps that can mitigate associated ethical risks and thus reduce the threats to consumers. We conclude that neuromarketing has clear potential for positive impact on society and consumers, a fact rarely considered in the discussion on the ethics of neuromarketing.

Stanton, S. J., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., Huettel, S. A. (2017). Neuromarketing: Ethical Implications of its Use and Potential Misuse. J Bus Ethics, 144, 799-811.


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