What 10 Years of Neuroscience Tells Us about Our Brains on Print

It’s been 10 years since Millward Brown published the groundbreaking report “Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Marketing.”

At the time it drew a lot of attention. Many marketers, committed and dug in to being part of the digital revolution, pooh-poohed it as a desperate plea from the print industry to “save” itself. The people who read it more carefully came away with a better understanding of how print interacts with the human brain and began to see the print vs. digital debate from a different perspective.

“The Millward Brown study used functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) scanning to understand how the brain reacts to physical and virtual stimuli,” explains this post in Two Sides NA. “The researchers examined brain activity to see the regions most involved in processing advertising. Results showed that ‘… greater emotional processing is facilitated by the physical material than by the virtual.’ This suggests that print ads generated more emotion and positive associations, which the researchers say is vital for memory and brand recall.”

The findings started a cascade of similar studies, which Heidi Tolliver-walker generously compiled into a list of links that we shared earlier this summer.

In case you missed it, here it is again, a curated list of scientific studies on the neuroscience of print – a perfect addition to your sales quiver to help your team more fully understand print and its role in modern marketing.

The last 10 years have been fascinating in so many ways; the rise (and fall from grace) of social media, the resurgence of print, and the growing consumer desire for digital minimalism.

To me, it proves one thing: While technology can certainly bring disruption, there are limits to what our human brains will accommodate. The science is there; our brains are hardwired for real things – print vs. more pixels, and I expect this will be true for generations to come.