Celebrity endorsement 'alters brain activity'

Charlize Theron's feet Charlize's choice could be altering women's brain activity

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Seeing a celebrity endorse a pair of shoes alters a woman's brain activity - even if she does not drop everything to get her feet into the latest Jimmy Choos, a study suggests.

A Dutch team scanned the brains of 24 women as they looked at pictures of celebrities and attractive non-famous contemporaries sporting certain shoes.

Celebrity endorsement has become increasingly prevalent in recent years.

And the research concluded advertisers are on to something.

The women were presented with 40 colour photographs of famous and non-famous women deemed to be similarly attractive, and wearing the same footwear.

Encoding memories

When confronted with a celebrity, the team documented heightened activity in a certain part of the brain - the medial oribitofrontal cortex. The same was not observed when pictures of an attractive non-celebrity were presented.

Writing in the Journal of Economic Psychology, they suggested that this activity links the celebrity with the product in a part of the brain associated with feeling affection.

Moreover this link could be rapidly recalled.

"The enhanced memory performance for items that were encoded in the context of a famous individual can neither be explained by increased attractiveness of the celebrity nor by a higher level of perceived expertise, but only by the persuasiveness of fame itself," wrote lead author Mirre Stallen of Erasmus University.

However, contrary to expectations, the number of women saying they would go out and purchase these shoes did not differ significantly between celebrity and non-celebrity photographs.

But the researchers stressed there could be a longer term impact, even if it did not manifest itself as an immediate desire to buy.

A future study will investigate whether men are equally swayed by celebrities' footwear.

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