April 3, 2008

Guys Like Hot Babes on Cars, News at Eleven

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Annals of Obvious Research, bringing you the latest and most cutting-egde studies that provide strong evidence for things that you probably think you knew all along.

From the pages of this month's NeuroReport comes a study by Knutson et al. titled "Nucleus accumbens activation mediates the influence of reward cues on financial risk taking."

In other words, brain scans show that heterosexual men are more likely to buy expensive things on impulse if you drape scantily clad women over your merchandise.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that emotional stimuli can influence financial risk-taking," lead author Brian Knutson of Stanford said in a university press release.

Knutson and colleagues came to this startling revelation by looking at fMRI scans of male undergrads who were shown positive, negative, and neutral images. Erotic images were used for the positive category, snakes and spiders for negative, and office supplies for neutral.

The press release notes: "In case any of the subjects found office supplies more repellent than snakes and spiders, the researchers had the men rate each image after the scans." Thank goodness for controls.

The participating guys, who had been given $10 American for their troubles, then had to decide whether to gamble part of their earnings in increments of a dollar or a dime.

"After people had seen those erotic pictures, they tended to pick the high-risk gamble more often, especially if they had been picking the low-risk gamble before," Knutson said.

The authors caution that their findings only apply some of the time, specifically when the men had to make a decision very soon after viewing the images. Future research will look at how long the effect lasts, as well as whether the same thing happens in women.

But I'm sure ad people everywhere are cheering in unison at this news. Now it's only a matter of time before skin-flashing models start appearing in ads for everything from chicken sandwiches to dishwashers. Oh, wait …

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