I have a broad interest in human behaviour and in how the brain orchestrates this behaviour. My research topics range from the neural mechanisms of performance monitoring to the effects of mental fatigue on cognition, to the effects of social status on behaviour, to the effects on hormones on decision-making, to whether we can use brain measurements from just a few individuals to say something about how the population at large will behave.

The main theme of my research has been performance monitoring and outcome evaluation: what happens in the brain when we make a mistake, and how does this affect subsequent behaviour? Do we learn from our mistakes? Can we pinpoint patterns of brain activity that predict whether we will or will not learn from our mistakes? I am also interested in how the social context influences how we evaluate our own behaviour: how is it different for you when your decision resulted in failure, while your colleague’s decision also resulted in failure, compared to the situation where you have failed, but your colleague succeeded? Are there differences in how the brain processes these situations (in which your objective outcome is the same)? Does it matter if this colleague is your supervisor or your assistant (i.e. how does social status influence these processes)? How do other social processes (for example how fair was the outcome) influence how you evaluate your performance? How do hormone-levels, such as oxytocin, testosterone and cortisol, influence how you evaluate actions, both your own and those of others?

Over the last several years I have become interested in Neuroeconomics (the branch of neuroscience that studies decision-making), and what is now called Consumer Neuroscience (how knowledge of Neuroeconomics may tell us something about how groups of individuals may respond to persuasive messages and how this might affect their choice behaviour). My main lines of research in these fields focusses on two central questions: can we predict market behaviour from brain activity (and do such neural measures add anything to more traditional measures), and do brain measurements reveal additional evaluative information about stimuli (persuasive messages such as commercials), which cannot be obtained through self-report measures? We find that it is indeed possible to predict the behaviour of large numbers of individuals in the population from brain data obtained from a limited number of students in our lab, and that these brain measures increase accuracy of predicting both individual and population behaviour compared to self-report measures alone. Moreover, we find that, using multivariate approaches to analyses of fMRI and EEG data, it is possible to extract information from the brain that reveals which emotions were elicited by the stimulus, which mental representations were activated, and how these emotions and representations predict preference and choice, both at the individual level, as well as in the population at large.


Updated by Maarten Boksem on January 27, 2015 Comments (0)

From the Media

Identifying strong brands in the brain.
Brand managers need to know how consumers perceive their brands. Do consumers actually have the ‘right’ associations with brands as intended by the companies? And are these associations consistent, or are they vastly different across consumers? Until recently, all that brand managers could do to find out, was to trust what consumers told them. But no longer. Researchers Hang-Yee Chan, Maarten Boksem and Ale Smidts from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), literally looked inside people’s heads and discovered that brand image and brand image strength are clearly visible in our brains. Paper
Brain scans reveal what makes a TV advert effective.
What is it about a TV advert that triggers people to find the product online? Scanning consumers’ brains has allowed Linda Couwenberg of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) to discover that a TV advert works best when it both highlights a product’s functional benefits and triggers the viewer’s imagination. This particular combination of elements activates specific parts of the viewer’s brain most intensely, she found, which makes the advert more effective. Paper
Can brain responses to movie trailers predict success?
Decades of research have shown that much of our mental processing occurs at the subconscious level, including the decisions we make as consumers. These subconscious processes explain why we so often fail to accurately predict our own future choices. Often what we "think" we want has little or no bearing on the choices we actually make. Now a new study provides the first evidence that brain measures "can" provide significant added value to models for predicting consumer choice. Paper

Updated by Maarten Boksem on June 20, 2018 Comments (0)