Cialdini's principle of Authoroty and Price Pain

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Core question

Could Cialdini’s principle of authority be used to soften the perceived feeling of price pain? Neuroscience helps to find out!

Psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini describes different tactics to improve the persuasiveness of communication. Cialdini’s principle of authority can considered useful to influence persuasiveness of websites. This principle increases the value of a product, but how does authority influences this value perception of a consumer? 

Another principle of Cialdini – Social proof – is known to have a lot of influence on consumers’ purchase behavior.

This principle explains that seeing many people use a certain product or service, encourages us to take these products and services into consideration. An example, websites often use this principle by displaying ratings and ‘Most sold’ labels. This concerns equal communication: ratings are generated by other consumers.

On the other hand, a difference in knowledge is expected for authority communications. A professional who promotes the product, or a more objective review website which evaluates products and labels them with labels such as ‘Good choice’ or ‘Best tested’.

Advertising research at Unravel Research shows that commercials starring an authoritarian figure score more positively on average, compared to commercials with just a regular consumer.

The increase of value perception of a product can thus increase sales. Though, the question remains; does the product become more interesting because of the extra value attributed, or does it also influence the experience of the price?

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Does spending money hurts?

The fact that spending money can truly hurts a little bit, originates from a brain scan which showed an activation of the pain area when people are spending money. Which proves that spending money can indeed hurt!

Is a low price really better?

At Unravel Research we measure price perception in the brain, instead of asking the consumer directly. We often see that expressed opinions do not match consumer’s real thoughts. Regarding research on pricing, this can be considered an even more sensitive research subject: consumers always consider cheap products – if explicitly asked – always as better.

What the brain is telling us about pricing

However, consumer’s brains often show us something different. An underpriced product will unconsciously be considered as less valuable. A consumer will make a price-quality trade-off and accordingly assumes that when something is considered too cheap, it will also be of low quality. As the Dutch saying states: Buying cheap is expensive.

Implicit price experience in a consumer’s brain can be measured!

It is therefore of great importance to measure unconscious consumer experience. Neuro research can be used to reveal the unconscious price perception. Using EEG metrics, we measure the consumer’s reaction to the price of a product.

The brain’s perception of price is being measured – among others – by the reaction which is referred to as N400. This is the reaction which fluctuates with the congruence of two concepts. For example, within a sentence but also the fit of the price with a product. The greater the measured reaction the less likely it is that the price fits the product.

Does the authority-label influence the implicit price congruence?

To measure the effect of a product sticker reflecting an authoritarian’s opinion, we showed respondents different products in our research lab. Some products with and some without such a label. We also varied the prices of the products during the trials. Thereafter, we asked respondents to express their explicit rating of the price: is it good, is it too expensive or too cheap?

Brain data showed that products with an authoritarian label scored on average 10% higher on the price-fit ratio compared to products presented without such a label. When products with such a label were presented, the congruence between product and price was higher, independently of the actual price. As a result, more consumers will evaluate the price as acceptable. 

On the other hand, the subjective price ratings did not reflect a difference between the conditions. This showed us that on an explicit level, an authoritarian label will not have any effect on the consumer compared to products which do not have such a label.

‘It should be good then’

This statement is exactly reflects what we often see. People think they are not influenced by

social proof, but unconsciously this is what often happens. A label which communicates the high value of a product, can soften the price pain experienced. This can be considered similar to the equivalent social proof influencing principle. Once again, Cialdini has been proven to be right!

Therefore, using product labels which reflect a professional’s positive opinion on the product, can be considered very valuable.  

Curious what effects your product labels or prices have on your consumer’s price experience? Using our pricing research, we can find out the effectiveness of your communication to your consumers. Besides, this method allows us to determine the optimal price for your product. Using neuro research, we gain knowledge on how consumers will on average respond on the product price. This will provide you with more certainty around your pricing to – in a reasoned way - introduce price changes.


Do you also want more insights, certainty and sales with neuromarketing?

Take a look into the brain with Unravel

Let's have a coffee

Unravel Research uses EEG and eye tracking to understand what the consumer won't tell you. This way we increase the impact of your ads.

Curious how your brand can profit from neuromarketing research? Tim loves to show you 5 crucial insights that lay the foundation for a perfect - sales increasing - commercial.

Tim ZuidgeestContact Tim:
+31 30 22 70 410 |
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Neuro Packaging test for the most Sustainable and Attractive Packaging

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Tom van Bommel

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Main Question

What is the sustainability and volume perception of a cardboard versus plastic packaging?

At Unravel Research we love it: sweet peppers as a snack. We could therefore not be happier when Vitapep approached us for a packaging study. The well-known mini sweet pepper grower was curious about the effects of packaging material on the sustainability perception of the consumer.

In their efforts to pack their sweet peppers in a more environmentally friendly way, Vitapep is considering introducing cardboard packaging to replace their current plastic buckets. To make the switch to cardboard as successful as possible, the brand wants to map two things:

  • Is the cardboard packaging indeed associated with sustainability?
  • How does the cardboard packaging affect the volume perception or - freely translated - the feeling of 'value for money'?

Implicit Association Testing (IAT) on sustainability perception

Vitapep wanted to do more than just ask potential buyers to what extent they associate plastic and cardboard with sustainability. This form of traditional research often leads to distorted insights, arising from social desirability on the one hand and the major role of the unconscious regarding our associations on the other.

Unravel therefore turned to the Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed at Harvard. This method is able to quantify unconscious associations on the basis of processing speed in the brain. For example, the more strongly two thoughts are associated (a packaging photo + "Sustainable"), the faster the brain can process these concepts simultaneously.

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How sustainable is cardboard for the brain

In this study, we tested a cardboard packaging versus three plastic variants:

  • A regular plastic bucket
  • A plastic bucket with the imprint “100% recycled plastic”
  • A plastic bag (flowpack in jargon)

The IAT showed that the cardboard buckets are indeed perceived as considerably more sustainable than the plastic variants. A plastic bag is slightly less sustainable, but is still considered more sustainable than a plastic bucket.

Interestingly, recycled plastic is considered less sustainable than a bucket without this label.

Although rationally counterintuitive, this is a well-known phenomenon in consumer psychological literature: when you emphasize that a negative point is not present or to a lesser extent, the consumer is more aware of the existence of this negative property. In this way, a boomerang effect occurs, which means that consumers consider packaging to be even less environmentally friendly.

Does the customer get value for money?

Each type of packaging differed greatly in shape. From the tall and narrow plastic buckets to the low and wide cardboard boxes. This brings up the challenge of volume perception; with which package does the customers feel like they get the most value for money?

To find out, Unravel conducted an estimation experiment. Three groups of 75 respondents each were presented with one type of packaging within a supermarket context, asking "How many grams of Vitapep do you think this package contains?". Because each group estimated a single package, there was no undesirable influence of multiple types of packaging on each other.

Interestingly, the volume is underestimated with the low wide cardboard packaging, while they are underestimated with the tall narrow plastic buckets. This is a well-known phenomenon in perception psychology: height overrules width. High packaging seem to be larger in volume. This research sublimely confirms that: people overestimate both plastic buckets and underestimate the cardboard packaging.


In explicit questioning, consumers indicate that a label with "recycled plastic" indicates to them that this packaging is sustainable. However, our unconscious associations show something completely different. We therefore know that consumers who care about sustainability, do not include this label in their consideration.

A super valuable insight for Vitapep that gives clear recommendations for even better (and sustainable) packaging.

Do you also want more insights, certainty and turnover with neuromarketing?

Dive into the customer's brain with Unravel Research

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Unravel Research uses EEG, eye tracking and IAT to understand what the consumer won't tell you. This way we increase the impact of your ads.

Curious how your brand can profit from neuromarketing research? Tim loves to show you 5 crucial insights that lay the foundation for a perfect - sales increasing - commercial..

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Read more: What is the most sustainable and desirable packaging?


Happy Eyes Commercial

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Core question

How effective is Pearle's latest ad campaign?

Pearle is the leading brand of optician stores in the Netherlands. With the launch of their new Happy Eyes campaign, Pearle completely changed the typical tone that dominates optician commercials.

The Pearle campaign sets itself apart from many category traditions, both in its creative execution and overall visual style. Gone are the typical humoristic vignettes of people who do awkward things because of their bad eyesight. The use of celebrities has vanished as well. Happy Eyes is a campaign that simply celebrates mankind's most complex sensory organ: the eye.

Such a venture into new campaign territory is daunting. Will it delight the target market? Will it pull people into the stores? To answer these questions, Pearle hired neuromarketing agency Unravel to peek into the brains of the bespectacled.

And the results speak for themself. Not only did the neuromarketing research give certainty about their new course, a post-test with the improved commercial scored 64,7% better!

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"The neuro research was extremely valuable. Because our brand movie is all about emotion, we specifically opted for neuro. This ensures we don't get socially desirable answers, but real insights instead."
Ingrid de Jong - Brand Manager Pearle
Screenshot Pearle Happy Eyes commercial

Before the neuro: best practice consult

Unravel joined the creation process early on. This allowed us to consult on the initial concept and storyboard, based on established insights and best practices.

The consultants brought valuable insights to the table, stemming either from academic publications or Unravel's own insights database. These recommendations revolved around elements such as the opening shot, camera movement, editing style, visible emotions and voice-over usage.

With our recommendations, we always stay true to our philosophy that an adjustment should never overthrow a creative concept. Our advice helped to make the ad more attractive, persuasive and memorable – while keeping the core idea vibrant and alive.

Step 1- Predict effectiveness

Overall, 40% of tv commercials does not increase sales. Half of these even cause sales to decline. Our job with neuro is to predict and increase the effectiveness of new campaigns.

During this campaign's neuro study, 20 users of glasses or contact lenses watched the commercial, while EEG and Eye Tracking measured their emotional experience.

Brain activity allows us to predict the direction of sales impact of a commercial by measuring success predictors of approach motivation and cognitive ease. Compared to a benchmark, the commercial scored lightly above average, with an especially strong appeal towards millennial viewers. Great news – sales will increase – but can the commercial get even better? 

Step 2- Increase effectiveness - by a lot

A major advantage of neuro ad tests is that EEG records brain activity many times per second. A scene by scene analysis reveals the performance of each individual shot, allowing for powerful optimization by tweaking the ad's weakpoints. In this case, a specific high-paced sequence of many quickly edited cuts resulted in negative emotion. Also, the introduction of the background music resulted in an averse response.

Based on these clear insights, the final commercial was tweaked on these important details. The editing pace was eased and the background music was changed to a more pleasing tune.

Step 3- Post-test… the verdict

The recommended adjustments to the ad were subtle. Our goal is to tweak the commercial only on those elements that the creative concept allows for. That's what we call data driven creativity. Nonetheless, many times we see that exactly these small adjustments make a big difference in effectiveness. This case is no exception...

In an additional post-test (again with 20 viewers), we saw that the adjustments fulfilled their intended effect. The emotional highlights from the first test remained, while the previous pain points had vanished.

The final commercial scored 64,7% higher on the benchmark than during the pre-test, allowing Pearle to maximize the impact on sales and branding from day one.

Also want to have more impact, certainty and sales with neuromarketing?

Take a look into the brain with Unravel

Let's have a coffee

Unravel Research uses EEG and eye tracking to understand what the consumer won't tell you. This way we increase the impact of your ads.

Curious how your brand can profit from neuromarketing research? Tim loves to show you 5 crucial insights that lay the foundation for a perfect - sales increasing - commercial.

Tim ZuidgeestContact Tim:
+31 30 22 70 410 |
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Read more: Happy Eyes Ad Test

Movie Trailers

Predict box office hits

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Main question

Does brain activity predict the next box office hit?

When you say ‘neuromarketing research’, most people imagine brain scans aimed at predicting sales from advertising. But besides advertising, there’s another industry that similarly uses short videos to entice people to act: movies.

Movie trailers provide a particularly fruitful research avenue. While sales data of brands often isn’t readily available, movie ticket sales are just one click to IMDB away. This sparked us to peek into people’s brain activity while they watching movie trailers.

"There's a negative correlation between revenue and self report. The more often people say they'd want to watch the movie, the lower the revenue."

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What a good trailer looks like in the brain

64 participants visited the Unravel Research living room lab to sit back, relax and enjoy some movie trailers – all the while their eye gaze and brain activity was being recorded every millisecond. Our trailer set spanned across many different genres and included both box office hits and flops.

Our collection of trailers (16 in total), consisted of sneak peeks from movies of all genres, from hits to flops. Each participant viewed 6 randomly assigned trailers

Afterwards, we analyzed the predictive power of brain activity on movie sales through a regression analysis. Interestingly, successful trailers spark a very specific pattern of brain activity.

First of all, we found a strong and significant correlation (r = .55) between opening weekend ticket sales and pre-frontal asymmetry, which is a common brain measure of desire. Secondly, we found a strong negative correlation (r = - .63) with cognitive workload. This means that the harder the trailer is to process, the less likely people are to buy a ticket.

Simply put, good movie trailers evoke desire, but don’t make people think too much.

What is the predictive value of self reports?

After viewing the trailer, each participant was asked if they would want to visit the movie. As psychologist, we know that people aren't reliable in predicting their future behavior, but this outcome even suprised us!

We saw a negative correlation (R=-.20) between their answer and revenue of the movie. In other words, the more often people said they'd want to visit the movie, the smaller the chance of them actually buying a ticket is. 

People don't do as they say, and don't say as they do. Which is why we want to look at their brains for truthful answers

Correlatie Survey (-.49) en EEG (.57) met weekendomzet film

Predict box office sales

So… what’s in it for the film industry?

First and foremost, these new insights validate it’s possible to predict box office sales based on neuro trailer research. After controlling for film budget as a variable, brain activity alone is capable of providing a surprisingly precise estimate of opening weekend sales.

This research has uncovered that good trailers evoke desire and are easy to process. EEG brain scans allow us to pinpoint exactly how well future trailers measure on these metrics.

How to make better trailers

In addition to predicting a movie’s box office success, neuro metrics also paint a clear picture of which scenes within the trailer actually work, and which ones don’t. This makes EEG research an interesting tool for production companies that wish to test and optimize their trailers before actually showing them to the public.

For instance, take a look at this video excerpt from the climactic final seconds of the trailer of ‘The Accountant’. De line chart shows the amount of left-frontal alpha asymmetry, a measure of positive approach motivation predictive of sales. Note the clear drop in positive emotion during the “Who are you?” segment, an indicator this particularly shot could better be discarded for something else.

On the positive side, when the rousing music swells into a climax, we see the brain experiences the same pleasant emotion. The trailer closes in silence, while the brain cheers.

Also want to know you've got the best trailer possible?

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Unravel Research is able to tell you what your client can't by using Eye Tracking and EEG. This way we make your commercials even more effective.

Want to know how your brand can profit from neuromarketing research? Tim will show you how market research will never be the same again!

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Read more: Predict box office hits


Neuromarketing Research: the Ultimate magazine Shelf

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Core question

How can the shelf experience of magazines be improved?

How does the consumer makes a decision in front of the magazine shelf? What opportunities are there to make the shelf experience more user-friendly and attractive?

To answer these questions, Unravel Research conducted two studies. First, we mapped out the customer's viewing patterns by using remote Eye Tracking glasses in a bookstore and supermarket. It gave insights to make the magazine shelf more catchy, calmer and more attractive.

To test the effectiveness of these optimization ideas, we returned to our comfortable lab (which is build in a livingroom setting) in the second study. We tested a large number of shelf variations using EEG, in order to collect brain activity. This allowed us to determine which shelf design, signage and promotional messages are most effective.

What makes the customer reach for that one magazine?

As the market leader in distribution and trade marketing of magazines, comic books, novels and puzzles, Aldipress is constantly looking for new insights into the customer's choice process.

First of all, they were specifically interested in the shelf layout.

  • What are the consumer’s viewing patterns on the shelf and which shelf layouts receive a lot or little attention?
  • Which magazines, for example, are seen first and in which direction are magazine categories best placed?
  • Are the shelves easily processed in the brain or can optimization still take place here?
  • Aldipress is also interested in the differences in shelf experience between men and women.

Read more about the influence of the different insights!


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"With this knowledge we can optimize our shelf vision, plans and promotions"

Linda - Category Development Manager - Aldipress

Influence of signing and promotional material

Signing and promos. They are the icing on the cake of many shelves. But which signing designs give the desired twist to the customer's attention and shelf experience? The interest was mainly focused on the visibility of the signage above and below the shelves and whether it could be further optimized.

Last but not least: does the promotional material encourage you to buy? Aldipress currently uses four types of promotional material: floor stickers, wobblers, banners and shelf strips. Do they grab our attention? And which promotional texts activate the brain the most?

Insights on Shelf Furnishing

We found insights about the viewing direction, the search process and the decision-making process of the consumer. This showed that women and men differ subtly in their viewing patterns and the process of searching for a magazine.

The data provides Aldipress guidance in which direction to place the magazine categories in order to grab attention in the midst of an increasingly busy retail environment. In addition, we have mapped out guidelines on:

  • Placement of the bottom row of magazines: upright or lying?
  • Theme blocks
  • Mechanisms to create more rest on the shelf

Insights on Signing

To what extent does signing help the customer search process? Does it stimulate their brain to make a purchase more quickly? Based on brain data, we have mapped the unique added value of the following separate signing elements:

  • Signing or not
  • Color
  • Iconography
  • Text


Insights on Promotional Materials

There are 1000 ways for a copywriter to frame an offer. What makes the brain happy? 

We have tested various texts and promotional media. The data clearly shows which promotional material is viewed the most, which message resonates best with the consumer and how the promotional material can be presented as attractively as possible.

Do you also want more insights, certainty and sales with neuromarketing?

Take a look into the brain with Unravel

Let's have a coffee

Unravel Research uses EEG and eye tracking to understand what the consumer won't tell you. This way we increase the impact of your ads.

Curious how your brand can profit from neuromarketing research? Tim loves to show you 5 crucial insights that lay the foundation for a perfect - sales increasing - commercial.

Tim ZuidgeestContact Tim:
+31 30 22 70 410 |
Onze klanten

We mean business with


Read more: How can the shelf experience of magazines be improved?

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