Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

First they scan your brain.

Then they set their price.

First they scan your brain. <p>Then they set their price.</p>

vote-to-winYou're not spending enough at Starbucks. Or Peet's. Or Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, and KFC.

You're robbing those companies. And it's their fault. They're charging prices that are lower—much lower—than you're willing to pay. But don't worry:

Neuromarketing will fix all that.

That's right: Neuromarketing. German neurobiologist Kai-Markus Müller has figured out a way to scan your brain and turn it into a treasure map--a treasure map leading him to the "feel-good" price you're willing to pay. That's valuable information, something Müller is ready to sell to companies ready to pay him big fees for the opportunity to peek inside their customer's heads. Literally.

Müller calls his neuromarketing technology, "neuropricing." Call it what you want, marketers are lining up. Herr Dr. Müller's pioneering research means, for example, that your brainwaves will enable Starbucks to pinpoint, with lab-tested accuracy, the highest price you're willing to pay for that $6.50 Pumpkin Spice Latte that costs them 80 cents to serve.

And, by the way, that "highest price"you're willing to pay is higher than $6.50.

"Everyone thinks that they've truly figured out how to sell a relatively inexpensive product for a lot of money," Müller told the German magazine Spiegel. "But the odd thing is that even this company doesn't understand it."


Sure it's expensive. But so long as you're feeling good about it...

Müller worked at Simon, Kucher and Partners, a major global consulting enterprise that conducts market research to help companies figure out how much to charge. He left, he says, because of an insight he had: Old-fashioned market research is out-of-date. In Müller's view, there's no need to conduct surveys asking people what they'd be willing to pay for something. Now we can just scan their brains, because brainwaves never lie.

If you think Muller's nuts, he's not. He's enlisted scientists from one of Germany's most prestigious technology institutions, the Munich University of Applied Sciences. They've validated his theories with a series of carefully-designed experiments, all of which say we're willing to pay a lot more for stuff than we let on.

So here comes the neuromarketing revolution. Müller's company, Neuromarketing Labs, is up and running with its "neuropricing" technology. "Everyone wins with this method," Müller told Spiegel, because brain-tested prices will help companies make more money, which means they're less likely to go out of business in this rough and tumble economy.

Really? Is neuropricing a big win for society? Or just off-the-charts creepy? What's your take?

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