The role of fMRI in detecting attitude toward brand switching: an exploratory study using high technology products

Sam O. Al-Kwifi (Department of Management and Marketing, College of Business and Economics, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Publication date: 18 April 2016



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the factors that underpin consumer attitude toward switching a product brand, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain activity during the decision-making process. Most of the literature shows that in the past, conventional marketing research approaches have been used to study brand switching among consumers. However, there is a lack of understanding of the importance of evaluating brain activations during the decision-making process when a consumer is selecting a brand.


The proposed model is a simplified version of consumer acceptance of technology model. This model accounts for cognitive and affect factors when choosing a product by including perceived usefulness and pleasure variables, respectively. An event-related fMRI experiment was designed and conducted using two smartphone brands.


The level of brain activation at the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) increased when participants were asked to judge images that reflect brand perceived usefulness compared with judging images that reflect brand pleasure. Similarly, the higher the perceived usefulness of the other smartphone, the greater the activation of the vmPFC during decision-making to switch to that smartphone.

Practical Implications

This study contributes to the literature on brand switching by exploring the importance of fMRI technique in evaluating brain activities during decision-making to adopt a brand. For managers, research findings would allow them to draft better marketing and advertisement strategies that enhance consumer perception value of high technology brands and positive emotional experience.


Although the literature reports considerable research on brand switching, this is the first exploratory study to utilize fMRI to investigate consumer attitude toward switching. In addition, unlike most prior research, which uses generic products in fMRI studies, this study is utilizing high technology product to investigate the brand switching behavior.



Al-Kwifi, S.O. (2016), "The role of fMRI in detecting attitude toward brand switching: an exploratory study using high technology products", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 208-218.

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