As Dr. A. K. Pradeep recounts in his new book, The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious, a researcher in Professor Giancomo Rizzolati's neuroscience laboratory at the University of Parma in Italy was enjoying a frozen treat while a monkey sat nearby, connected to equipment that monitored his brainwave activity. Upon seeing the lab assistant enjoying the gelato, neurons in the monkey's own brain instantly fired, matching the activity the primate was observing. In effect, in his own subconscious, that monkey was going through all the motions that the lab assistant was actually performing—and enjoying. Thus was launched what Dr. Pradeep explains in "The Empathic Brain" chapter as mirror neuron theory.
This discovery revealed that observing someone performing an action or experiencing an emotion is far from a passive experience. Specialized brain cells called mirror neurons fire when we see familiar actions performed or emotions expressed. Observing an action causes brain activity that simulates what happens when we actually perform the action. Examples include:
- Seeing a child get a shot causes the parent to wince
- Watching a close partner handle a stressful situation can cause one's own blood pressure to rise
- Observing a bicyclist zoom down a hill will elevate one's heart rate and give a feeling of alertness and possibly even a mirrored endorphin jolt
- Helping an injured person can cause you to hold one's own body as if it were injured
- Seeing a colleague win a deal activates one's own success and reward neural pathways
Mirrors in the Marketplace
Dr. Pradeep offers practical guidelines in The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind for marketers wishing to leverage mirror neuron activity. In the book, Dr. Pradeep recounts how NeuroFocus, the world's largest neuro-marketing company where he serves as CEO, applied mirror neuron theory to help a car company solve a puzzling problem and achieve significantly improved results in its dealers' showrooms.
"Activating the mirror neuron system is one of the most effective ways to connect with your consumer. Show products being consumed. Show the effervescent first taste of water, the warm sip of fresh coffee. As we did for our car company client, depict people directly involved with your product or service. When consumers are in the store or shopping online, those feelings of desire will be activated in their subconscious and will help stimulate them to try and buy."