Facial mimicry and neuromarketing: neurophysiological effects of advertising on audience

Michela Balconi, Irene Venturella, Daniela De Filippis, Laura Angioletti, Gioele Sbarbaro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Nowadays advertising is always more often interacting with the consumer, reducing the distance between virtual and real space. The present study investigates how facial expressions in commercials can influence the comprehension and the ability to remember spots, brands and products publicized. Nineteen subjects (10 female and 9 male; mean age 21,4) were involved in the vision of a set of stimuli of advertising that were emotionally connoted by positive, negative or neutral valence based on the facial expression of actors involved in the advertising. Advertising stimuli with different emotional valence belong to the commercial categories of food supply and health, where food and medicines were presented. Every video was evaluated with the adjectives of a semantic differential and the SAM scale (Self-Assessment Manikin Scale). During the experiment, cortical activity was recorded with EEG (Electroencephalography), while physiological measures and ocular movements were gathered by biofeedback and eyetracker. A questionnaire to evaluate the brand andproduct recall was administered at the end of the experiment. Eye movement analysis confirmed that sample attention was significantly captured by faces that appeared in the showedvideos. Moreover, data revealed a difference in subjects’autonomic activity relatively to videos valence and advertising category. In particular, there was an increase in the heart beat and in the zygomaticus major muscle activity during the vision of advertising related to food with a positive valence. The same activity was found for the health category, but related to advertising with negative valence. It may seem that a dissonance between facial expression positivity and the related category was perceived. It is possible that there was a prevalence of a semantic process over a mirroring mechanism, in fact, electrophysiological data suggested that positive video processing should be due to the dissonant contest in contrast with the emotion showed in the video and not to the facial expression by itself. Indeed theta band values was greater in right frontal area for health category instead of food. According to the literature the right hemisphere is involved in the negative stimuli processing. EEG and autonomic results were in line with the final questionnaire in which negative valence advertising related to health is the category less recalled between the others. Overall, it seems that these data could be interesting not only to suggest advertising producers the most effective strategy to persuade consumers, but also to sensitize the audience to a more critical purchase.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAtti del «XXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive»
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventXXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive - Roma
Duration: 16 Nov 201718 Nov 2017


ConferenceXXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive


  • Autonomic activity
  • Consumer
  • EEG
  • Marketing
  • Mimicry


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