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Colas - Watchmaking and the ventral striatum
Recent scientific research conducted by German psychologists looked at the manner in which the brands condition, stimulate and influence our brains and therefore the manner in which we perceive reality. How do brands affect our brains and how also do incorrect information on the brands in question alter our perception right into the furthest recesses of our neuronal cavity. These are the questions that were asked by researchers Simone Kuhn and Jurgen Galllinat. Learnedly entitled "Does Taste Matter? How Anticipation of Cola Brands Influences Gustatory Processing in the Brain", their very serious experiment involved having MRI scans conducted on some 15 people (all perfectly sane, with no particular neurological or medical history, explain the researchers who also emphasise that "they were all right-handed" - doubtless because in left-handed people, the brain lobes are the other way round). Two specific areas of the brain were targeted: the orbitofrontal cortices, the home of subjective thought that given to different products one sees, and the ventral striatum, the area connected to reward and pleasure. An area which, as we will see, can "light up" at the slightest mention of a known brand, suggesting all the promises of "pleasure" that it is supposed to bring us. ?
The MRI guinea pigs were given four samples of a cola drink through a tube for them to give their opinion of each sample on a scale from 1 to 8. However these samples were not anonymous - and prior to each ingestion (repeated several times in different quantities), the logo of the brand was quickly shown on a screen: Coke, Pepsi, River Cola (a cheap brand that is well-known in Germany) and an imaginary T-Cola. To reinforce the guinea-pigs' belief, they were allowed to see four large syringes, all different, duly labelled with the name of the various brands. Unsurprisingly, Coke and Pepsi won the vote hands down, leaving the other brands streets behind. Certain participants, the study explains, even express their b preference for Coke and Pepsi and their dislike of other brands. The glitch? The four mixtures were perfectly identical, and all strictly composed of a mixture of Coke, Pepsi, River and T in equal parts.
The result of the MRI scan showed that the orbitofrontal cortex where worth is evaluated was less used in the case of well-known or recognised brands, because this worth is retained and accepted in our connections. If one transposes this into the realm of watchmaking, one could say that on the scale of watchmaking brands, the orbitofrontal cortex does not need to get involved when it hears the word "Rolex", but will work overtime at the sound of the brand "Von Graffenried & Cousins", for example. On the other hand, the ventral striatum which is the centre of reward and pleasure becomes active at the very name of a known brand - while it remains completely "silent" when it comes to unknown brands. Brands therefore have the power to arouse those neurones responsible for pleasure, reward and satisfaction to the point of preventive titillation. ?
Continuing with the methodology used in the cola experience, could one apply the same research methods to watchmaking? This would not be about tasting an undetermined liquid, but rather for example being given a chance to discover the most recent model of a brand in an exclusive sneak preview. We might thus manufacture a watch representing a hybrid of several different models, including for example an Omega case, with a Rolex bezel, an Ice-Watch dial, Von Grafenried & Cousins pushers and Rochat & Meylan hands...The movement, also a perfect hybrid, could be presented as a Patek Philippe or alternatively a movement made in Shenzen and the strap leather as being made by Hermes or imported from Albania. The consumers undergoing the MRI would be told that they were going to be given an exclusive presentation of a brand new Rolex, Omega, Rochat-Meylan, Boomtime or Von Grafenried & Cousins model, a claim borne out by the logos on the watch. What do you think the result would be? How, for example, would the ventral striatum react to the announcement of a totally new Von Grafenried & Cousins model? Probably a scientifically measurable flat encephalogram, whereas on the contrary, one might well imagine that the very mention of the upcoming discovery of a brand-new Rolex model would trigger a whole host of neurones - especially among bloggers, whose ventral striatum would quite likely start performing a belly dance! Poor us! We thought that only our sacrosanct "free will" determined our choices and our intimate desires, but this does not appear to be the case. Something like Pavlov's dog which started salivating and slobbering simply when it heard the bell ringing signalling its food - and even if the food never appeared again - we unconsciously vibrate and get excited at the mere thought of promised pleasures that for most of us will always be unattainable. ?