July 10 - Researchers in New York have shown that measuring human brain waves could help advertisers develop more effective campaigns. The team monitored brain wave activity in volunteers to determine what types of film scenes elicited universal responses. They say their data shows that the method could be far more effective than conventional market research techniques. Sharon Reich has more.
Advertisers and film makers would love to get inside your head - and now scientists say they can. For Dr. Lucas Parra and his team at the City College of New York, Alfred Hitrchcock's classic film "Bang! you're dead" proves the point. By monitoring and comparing the brain activity of volunteers watching the movie the scientists say they have determined the kinds of visual stimuli that engage viewers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LUCAS PARRA, PROFESSOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY), SAYING: "From a practical point of view the most important thing we are able to report is that we can tell if you're engaged in a scene down to a say one second resolution. So we could potentially go to a film maker and say look, in this scene, the first two seconds you were good, but then in the third and fourth second you lost your audience." In "Bang! You're dead" a boy is playing with what he thinks is a toy gun… although the audience knows it's real. Tension builds as the boy begins to play a kind of Russian Roulette, unaware of the risk he's taking. While 20 volunteers watched the scene unfold, the researchers measured their neural activity using a cap with electrodes attached to an EEG monitor. In most volunteers, brainwave activity peaked during scenes with powerful visual cues such as a close up of the gun and during meaningful scene changes. Researcher Jacek Dmochowski says the team then re-edited the film, mashing up scenes to see if viewers would have the same response. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JACEK DMOCHOWSKI, PHD FELLOW, SAYING: "When the narrative was disrupted we found much less correlation across subjects, much less correlation across views within the same subject. What that shows is that we're not just machines processing a stimulus." Parra says the he think the research can be used to replace traditional focus groups used by marketers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LUCAS PARRA, PROFESSOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY), SAYING: "From a practical point of view I think an area that would be naturally suited for this is neuromarketing ... neuromarketing is this whole notion of using brain signals or physiological response to measure an audience reaction to say advertising. the interest in that is that you now have objective measures instead of a study group where you just ask questions and they give you responses , which may or may not be really what they felt or thought about." Next, the team plan to focus their tests even more in hopes of being able to locate where exactly in the brain responses occur, taking mind reading - and the power of persuasion - to new heights. Sharon Reich, Reuters