Will brain scanning be the next marketing tool?
Brain scans could be used to predict election results, the success of a new Hollywood blockbuster or even to test the waters when governments plan new laws after US scientists were able to predict the popularity of a TV show – in this case The Walking Dead – in a large group from the responses of just 16 people.
An online service which collects Twitter traffic information was employed to obtain a comprehensive listing of time-stamped, stimulus-relevant tweets, which originated during the airing of the episode. Meanwhile, 16 study participants representative of the series’ target demographic were recruited to view the episode while having their neural activity recorded with high-density EEG.
The small group reacted the same way to the same scenes as the response to the show on social media.
One may conclude from the results that stimuli which evoke highly reliable neural responses among a small sample also do so in a larger audience.
Scientists have known for some time that they could predict the future behaviour of an individual using brain imaging, but this experiment by Stanford's Jacek Dmochowski and colleagues reported in Nature Communications has huge implications for how education, marketing and media could be targeted towards specific audiences.