Hedonic goods are goods that people buy to obtain emotional experiences, such as joy or excitement, while utilitarian goods are bought to meet functional or instrumental needs. Although research in neuroscience suggests that the values of hedonic and utilitarian goods are similarly represented, it remains largely unknown how these values are mapped during purchasing decisions or task-irrelevant judgments. It has been suggested that people rely more on hedonic (vs. utilitarian) factors when making task-irrelevant judgments, and that this is amplified by trait-reward seeking. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can directly measure the mental processes involved in explicit or task-irrelevant value judgments. Using fMRI, we found that the explicit value of hedonic and utilitarian goods was commonly processed in the ventral striatum. In contrast, no significant results were obtained in common neural processing of task-irrelevant hedonic and utilitarian value. Additionally, we did not find any evidence that trait-reward seeking modulates task-irrelevant hedonic (vs. utilitarian) value processing. Our findings show that the value of both hedonic and utilitarian goods is commonly represented in the ventral striatum, and indicate that the value construct underlying consumer purchases is unidimensional.
ASJC Scopus subject areas