Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Elizabeth Johnson


Marketers have long used celebrities in advertisements to help viewers build strong brand and product associations; however, it is not well understood how the celebrity and the visual context affect visual attention to and, ultimately, consumer decision making for the endorsed product. Most prior studies have focused on qualitative surveys about brand equity, memory of the advertisement, and self-reported interest and intent to purchase. My study uses new methods from applied neuroscience that allow me both to directly measure and to analyze how celebrities in static advertisements impact consumer decisions that do not require measures of verbal self-report.

Furthermore, research has shown that humans automatically divert their visual attention in the direction of another’s gaze, known as “gaze-cueing” or “gaze-following” (Friesen and Kingstone, 1998; Kuhn and Kingstone, 2009). An overwhelming majority of celebrity endorsed advertisements depict celebrities looking at the viewer, not toward the endorsed product, though academic research suggests that gaze-cueing at the product (instead of toward the viewer) increases visual attention toward the endorsed product (Hutton and Nolte, 2011). My project tests whether the increase in visual attention due to gaze-cueing at the product translates into an increase in the consumer’s subjective value of that product and consequently influences product choice. Results indicate that celebrity interventions in advertisements increased the subjective value of endorsed products yet, interestingly, did not drive more overt visual attention to them. Moreover, gaze-cueing was found to have a pronounced effect on guiding visual attention. These advertising cues impact choice, which could translate into larger profits for competitive consumer products.


choice, decision-making, drift-diffusion, eye-tracking, decision neuroscience, perceptual choice, selective attention, gaze bias, preference bias, celebrity endorsed advertisements, gaze-cueing, gaze direction, celebrity endorsements, consumer behavior, visual marketing, social status



Date Posted: 21 May 2020


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