Trust me if you can: Neurophysiological insights on the influence of consumer impulsiveness on trustworthiness evaluations in online settings

Marco Hubert, Mirja Hubert, Marc Linzmajer, René Riedl, Peter Kenning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how consumer personality trait impulsiveness influences trustworthiness evaluations of online-offers with different trust-assuring and trust-reducing elements by measuring the brain activity of consumers. Shoppers with high degrees of impulsiveness are referred to as hedonic shoppers, and those with low degrees are referred to as prudent consumers. Design/methodology/approach: To investigate the differences between neural processes in the brains of hedonic and prudent shoppers during the trustworthiness evaluation of online-offers, the present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and region-of-interest analysis to correlate neural activity patterns with behavioral measures of the study participants. Findings: Drawing upon literature reviews on the neural correlates of both trust in online settings and consumer impulsiveness and using an experimental design that links behavioral and fMRI data, the study shows that consumer impulsiveness can exert a significant influence on the evaluation of online-offers. With regard to brain activation, both groups (hedonic and prudent shoppers) exhibit similar neural activation tendencies, but differences exist in the magnitude of activation patterns in brain regions that are closely related to trust and impulsiveness such as the dorsal striatum, anterior cingulate, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula cortex. Research limitations/implications: The data provide evidence that consumers within the hedonic group evaluate online-offers differently with regard to their trustworthiness compared to the prudent group, and that these differences in evaluation are rooted in neural activation differences in the shoppers’ brains. Practical implications: Marketers need to be made aware of the fact that neurological insights can be used for market segmentation, because consumers’ decision-making processes help explain behavioral outcomes (here, trustworthiness evaluations of online-offers). In addition, consumers can learn from an advanced understanding of their brain functions during decision-making and their relation to personal traits such as impulsiveness. Originality/value: Considering the importance of trust in online shopping, as well as the fact that personality traits such as impulsiveness influence the purchase process to a high degree, this study is the first to systematically investigate the interplay of online trustworthiness perceptions and differences in consumer impulsiveness with neuroscientific methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-146
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Consumer neuroscience
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Impulsiveness
  • Online shopping
  • Trust
  • Trustworthiness


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