When we buy a product of a brand, we trust the brand to provide good quality and reliability. Therefore, trust plays a major role in consumer behavior. It is unclear, however, how trust in brands is processed in the brain and whether it is processed differently from interpersonal trust. In this study, we used fMRI to investigate the neural correlates of interpersonal and brand trust by comparing the brain activation patterns during explicit trustworthiness judgments of faces and brands. Our results showed that while there were several brain areas known to be linked to trustworthiness evaluations, such as the amygdalae, more active in trustworthiness judgments when compared to a control task (familiarity judgment) for faces, no such difference was found for brands. Complementary ROI analysis revealed that the activation of both amygdalae was strongest for faces in the trustworthiness judgments. The direct comparison of the brain activation patterns during the trustworthiness evaluations between faces and brands in this analysis showed that trustworthiness judgments of faces activated the orbitofrontal cortex, another region that was previously linked to interpersonal trust, more strongly than trustworthiness judgments of brands. Further, trustworthiness ratings of faces, but not brands, correlated with activation in the orbitofrontal cortex. Our results indicate that the amygdalae, as well as the orbitofrontal cortex, play a prominent role in interpersonal trust (faces), but not in trust for brands. It is possible that this difference is due to brands being processed as cultural objects rather than as having human-like personality characteristics.
- consumer behavior
- orbitofrontal cortex