A Consumer Neuroscience Study of Conscious and Subconscious Destination Preference

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Scientific Reports


© 2019, The Author(s). In studying consumer behaviors, the inclusion of neuroscience tools and methods is improving our understanding of preference formation and choice. But such responses are mostly related to the consumption of goods and services that meet an immediate need. Tourism represents a consumer behavior that is related to a more complex decision-making process, involving a stronger relationship with a future self, and choices typically being of a higher level of involvement and of a transformational type. The aim of this study was to test whether direct emotional and cognitive responses to travel destination would be indicative of subsequent stated destination preference. Participants were shown images and videos from multiple travel destinations while being monitored using eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG) brain monitoring. The EEG responses to each image and video were further calculated into neurometric scores of emotional (frontal asymmetry and arousal) and cognitive load metrics. Our results show that arousal and cognitive load were significantly related to subsequent stated travel preferences, accounting for about 20% of the variation in preference. Still, results also suggested that subconscious emotional and cognitive responses are not identical to subjective travel preference, suggesting that other mechanisms may be at play in forming conscious, stated preference. This study both supports the idea that destination preferences can be studied using consumer neuroscience and brings further insights into the mechanisms at stake during such choices.

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