If You Want To Know If She Loves You So, It’s In Her Eyes

Imagine this scenario for a moment. You’re in a restaurant, on your first date, and you’re wondering if this relationship is going anywhere. You’re probably going to see what happens – like the soul singer Betty Everett once proclaimed, “If you want to know if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss“. But, what if you didn’t have to ?

A new study, by Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory, suggests that the difference between love and lust is all in the eyes. In other words, where your date looks at you could indicate whether or not love is on the table.

After setting up an experiment with an eye tracker, Cacippo found that eye patterns would be concentrated on the other persons face if the viewer sees that person as a potential romantic partner. Yet, if the viewer is feeling a sexual desire towards that person, eye patterns will be concentrated on the person’s body. This automatic judgment often occurs in seconds which, as a consequence, produces different gaze patterns. Also, numerous studies have shown that different networks of  brain regions activate when one is feeling love or lust (see here for an example).

“Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers.”

Stephanie Cacioppo

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How to test visual patterns ? 

In this study, two experiments were performed to understand visual patterns in two different emotional and cognitive states. These states are often difficult to distinguish from one another. Have you ever tried to understand what you were feeling when you looked at your date ? It’s difficult, right ? Well it’s even harder to distinguish these different states neurologically.

Cacioppo and her team of researchers asked male and female students from the University of Geneva to view a series of black-and-white photographs of people they had never met. During the first experiment, participants viewed photographs of young, adult heterosexual couples who were looking at each other. In the next, the participants viewed photos of attractive individuals of the opposite sex who were looking directly at them.

Throughout the experiment, participants were in front of a computer and asked to look at multiple blocks of photographs. They had to decide as quickly and precisely as possible whether they perceived feelings of sexual desire or romantic love from the people in the photographs.

Cacioppo’s study found no significant difference in the time it took the participants to detect romantic love or feelings of desire. This shows how quickly the brain can process both feelings of love or lust. Yet, after observing the eye tracking data from both studies, there were visible differences in the eye movements. These differences depended on whether the subjects reported feeling desire or romantic love.

By pooling this data, researchers were able to form a complete map of love and desire in the brain. They found that that two brain structures in particular, the insula and the striatum, are responsible for tracking the progression from sexual desire to love. The insula is a portion of the cerebral cortex folded deep within an area between the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe, while the striatum is located nearby, inside the forebrain.

Love and sexual desire activate different areas of the striatum. The area activated by sexual desire is usually activated by things that are inherently pleasurable, such as sex or food. The area activated by love is involved in the process of conditioning by which things paired with reward or pleasure are given inherent value. That is, as feelings of sexual desire develop into love, they are processed in a different place in the striatum.

“Love is actually a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded. It works the same way in the brain as when people become addicted to drugs.”

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Sensory Marketing – Touch it ! Smell it ! Remember it !

Sensory marketing engages the consumers senses with the purpose of conditioning their shopping decisions. The right situation can trigger a wide range of emotions that can lead the shopper to choose a brand over another.

Studies show that multi-sensory shopping experiences – where two or more senses receive stimulation at the same time – cause the shoppers to stay longer in the stores, buy more products, and develop a stronger engagement with brands.

Today more than ever, it seems that everyone assumes that the determining factor for effectively and successfully reaching the customer depends on how we manage sensory perceptions that the brand or product will cause in people. Which means that when a customer comes in contact with the product, the perceptual machine begins to operate.

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This is where our emotional brain plays a key role in making decisions, by choosing an option even before our prefrontal cortex – the conductor – gets time to evaluate the options. In the decision-making process, many factors influence us – our culture and beliefs, our memories of past experiences that we have stored in long term memory, for example.

While most brands focus their attention on developing visual and auditory marketing techniques, such as logos, specific music to play in the stores, television adverts with original jingles or themed colors for their packaging. There are lots of other resources that could be implemented, which aim to stimulate various senses simultaneously and creating a more intense shopping experience for the consumer.

For example, just by spraying a distinctive fragrance in a store, creating packages with different textures or giving their products a characteristic smell, brands and retailers get to see a significant improvement of sales.

The theory behind sensory marketing is all good and well. Let’s now see what this looks like in practice by examining different marketing techniques well renowned companies use to activate your senses.

In the last years, brands have been working hard to develop distinctive sounds both for their products and their packages. For instance, McDonald’s use numerous tactics to sell their products – for this example, we’ll focus on how they sell their fries. During the rush hours of the day – lunch time for example – the company put adverts out that are specifically aimed at those driving a car. One advert for fries features a sound that you could describe as something like a deep fat fryer and the voice over even announces that the smell of fries being cooked will be transferred to your car. By thinking of the sound of the fries cooking and our mental representation of the smell of fries, we are prompted to go and buy some. In this case, we can hardly say the advertising is subliminal yet, the company thinks that subtlety should not be wasted on its customers. Have you ever wondered why there is so much red in their restaurants ? Well, now you know – pay, eat fast and go away quickly.

Now, after thinking about MacDonald’s, you must be getting hungry. Sadly, manufactures know all too well that food is one of our weakest links. Let’s now turn our attention to chocolate, M&M’s to be precise.

You might have noticed, after years of eating them, that M&M’s don’t really smell of chocolate. Yet, when you enter the famous M&M’s World Store in London, you are bombarded by the soothing smell of chocolate. As you look around the store, you notice that every M&M is already prepackaged. So why is there this strong chocolate smell ? Well, who wouldn’t want to feel as though you’re walking into Willy Wonka’s Factory ?

After getting your taste buds working, you may, by now, have understood that scents mess with your rational thoughts and connect with your emotions. Here’s one final example that proves this. Have you ever noticed that when you walk into a Nike Store you immediately go for the most expensive shoes ? Well, you will know understand why.

Essentially, Nike Stores use a mixed flower scent to direct you towards the more expensive shoe designs inside. Studies show that you are willing to spend up to 10€ more on their shoes if they are diffusing flowery scents in the store. Also, the shops are light and often have white walls with black decorations or images in neutral colors, which makes you relaxed enough to make you pay for their shoes.

It is a well known fact that your memory and smells are tied closely together – a scent can really bring back memories and invoke emotions. Nowadays, companies know this all too well and make use of scents and sounds to jolt your brain into liking or enjoying their product.

Therefore if you wish to successfully sell your product make sure to pair either your store or the actual product with a specific scent – if you feel at home in a store, you are more likely to buy.

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