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fMRI + Marketing = Consumer Control?

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the don't-fight-the-hook dept.

The Almighty Buck 129

anonomouse writes "NYT magazine has an interesting article on the use of neuro-imagery in marketing. Best (old) quote: 'Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I don't know which half'. Good, bad, whatever? Does this bode well for job opportunities for the new crops of cognitive systems graduates? Most importantly, what does brain state tell us about behavior, if anything?"

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Fuckers (-1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308870)

suck up you faggots

for the karma =) (-1)

Dikky (613893) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308875)

In Soviet Russia Consumer control = fMri - Marketing

More info here (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308888)

Here [htpp]

Re:More info here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309172)

Bloody hell, that joke's gone from old, through stale, now into Pavlonian "fart" mode.

And you people mark it as "funny?"

I can see it now.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308901)

groups of people chained to chairs, brains plugged and wired to big machines, having to watch publicity for hours... no wonder the population is goind mind numb, dude.

It was like, beep, blink, and like, pooof, I didn't have to think anymore..

I wonder (1, Funny)

wildchild07770 (571383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308902)

Maybe they should study the brains of the people who decide to make the first post and do nothing but prove how immature they are.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308930)

First poster sits, technician installs wires and plugs into imagery machine, turns it on.

no signal

Technician: Uuuhhhh..

Take a wire, attach to his brain: beep, signal! Reattach to first poster:

no signal

No comments..

anal sex with a yoshi (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308906)

I have a weird friend. He writes weird stories about a fictional person called Yoshi [] You get searches looking for anal sex with a yoshi when really Yoshi drinks a bad soup. Somebody should have told him that Yoshi as a made up name would lead to trouble when Yoshi is more common than you would have thought.

human evolution (2, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308910)

Somehow I think 50 million years to human evolution has both bred people who can convince others to do what they want and people resistant to that appeal that in both cases will be no match for any analytical approach to dissecting human puchasing habits.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308919)

ho ho ho hee hee hee (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308943)

What the hell was that? The INSANITY of +0!

Human Evolution & Other Competitive Pressures (2, Informative)

MuParadigm (687680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309499)

I suspect you're right, though really we're only talking about a couple hundred thousand years of evolution. Homo species prior to Sapiens probably didn't have the kind of symbolic processing ability that would make such linguistic or visual appeals, or the the ability to resist them, evolutionarily important, even if they had language, which is also under question. And in any case, the combined Homo and Austro primate branches have only been around for about 5 (+/- 1) million years.

However, let's say that a technique that can be shown to influence peoples buying and desire patterns, with a mechanism that can be adequately understood outside of statistical correlation (such as a visual-linguistic technique that provokes desire for an object through creating a dopaminic/serotonal cascade in a portion of the brain) exists and is discovered.

In that case, I expect one of two things would occur:

A) The technique would be made illegal, as being unduly intrusive and controlling, or

B) All advertisers would start using it, thereby negating the advantage it could give any particular advertiser.

These constraints might compel researchers in the field to avoid explaining, or even looking for an explanation of, how the effect actually works. Instead, they'll probably just identify certain correlations in focus groups between MRI results and patterns of desire and consumption (buying).

I wonder what would happen to such people. Would they be better paid than individuals in your typical focus group? After all, going through the MRI process would be far more intrusive, tedious, and time-consuming than sitting around a table answering questions.

What would happen to people who exposed themselves to such testing on a repeated basis? Would they become obsessives or fetishists, like the characters who went through SB-5 trials in William Gibson's "Idoru" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"? Given the amount of TV most people watch, would we accidentally create a society of such obsessives? Would MRI comparisons, between people who watch TV on a regular basis and people who don't, show that we've already created such a society?

Hmm, if nothing else, it could make for a good SF novel. But then, I suppose Neil Stephenson's "Snow Crash" has already covered some of this territory.

pateNTdead eyecon0meter=.consumer.controll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308923)

& might prevent you from being duped again&again buy phonIE felonious greed/fear based payper liesense FudgePacker(tm) execrable, who use your money, to reduce yOUR choices, & in a not so roundabout way, kill babies.

get the picture?

One word. Looker. (1, Interesting)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308924)

Looker []

Watch it.

Learn it. Love it. Live it..

Re:One word. Looker. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309112)

Fine Film.

Re:One word. Looker. (2, Informative)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309418)

Off topic my ass.

Watch the movie. It's 100% relevant to the topic. It's prophetic.

It's not a T&A movie as the shallow of mind would think, it's about mind control and marketing. The use computer generated models combined with mind controlling embedded signals to not only compell people to buy things they don't want/need they end up using the same technique to convince people to vote for a faux presidential candidate.

Jeez people, can't you ever use your minds to see through the bling-bling to see the underlying message??

EVERY movie made sends a message. Most are contrived to form opinions and mold minds. Commercials are no different.

Commercials are attempts to control your mind and secure your soul..


Avarage mind vs a / (5, Funny)

saden1 (581102) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308932)

A /. will analyze adds different. He/She will:
1. See if they can use the product being advertise.
2. Check if there is a free alternative.
3. Check Google/Google groups for negative comments about the product.
4. Search Google/Google groups for competitive product.
6. Do an on-line merchant price comparison.
5. Check their bank account balance on-line and see if they have dough. Some of them will actually start doing spread sheet calculation to see how it fits to the overall monthly budget.
6. Buy the product if it is deemed worthy.

Your average Joe on the other hand will:
1. See and add while watching Survivor.
2. Think the product is very good because the add was cool.
3. Go out and buy the product the next day.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308984)

it's spelled "ad", dude..


Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

saden1 (581102) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309035)

it's a nasty habit of mine... the additional 'd' always seems to slip.

Thanks for being anal though.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309074)

keep your anals to yourself. it's called being "correct."

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

saden1 (581102) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309173)

You speak of being correct yet you use the word "anals." Perhaps you meant to say "keep your anuses to yourself?"

oh the irony....

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309192)

Who has more than one anus? (OK, i don't really want to know!)
on the other hand, if one is anal about more than one thing, couldn't we describe the collection as 'anals' ??

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309535)

Better check the definition of 'irony' numbnuts.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309648)

I didn't say -I- was correct, I said the other guy was.

But then, when we're all ACs, who can tell.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (2, Funny)

Jameth (664111) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308992)

However, the average Joe will spell 'ad' correctly, because he realizes that watching TV isn't the same as doing arithmetic.

For that matter, he might even put a '.' in the title of his post, so the '/' doesn't get loney.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309349)

LOL typos are funny.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309523)

It's a typo if you do it once or twice. If you do it every single time, it's just stupidity.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309531)

LOL stupidity is funny

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309753)

You're hilarious.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

jxs2151 (554138) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309490)

For that matter, the average /.'er *certainly* knows how to spell "lonely" of all words.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

Jameth (664111) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309890)

I beleve you are missaken. That woul be the avage Joe. the avage /.'er nos how to spel only inturmittenly

Re: Another difference between the average Joe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309016)

The avarage Joe uses spellcheckers while the avarage /.'er doesn't.

Re: Another difference between the average Joe (1)

saden1 (581102) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309047)

I don't think a spell checker would catch "add."

Witch is why . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309156)

ewe should reed yore massage* after you right it . . . . . . and not rely on a spell checker to keep you from commiting homophone suicide.

And yes, it IS homophone, NOT homonym.

* Massage, as in "And now a massage from the Swedish Prime Minister."

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309063)

Actually, 'average' Joe will see the ad the first time and consciencely forget about it when the next ad comes on (and this and subsequent ones once the crap^H^H^H^Hentertainment starts back up). It isn't until 'forgeting' about this crap^H^H^H^Had several times when 'average' Joe will start to think the product (or shit with a heavy coating of shinola, take your pick) is 'very good.'

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309068)

Ah yes, the consumer-oriented story, what better place for Slashdotters to come out patting themselves on the back on how much better than the "average person" they are.

i wish there was a -1, Elitist Fuckhead mod option.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309101)

I have a simpler solution. I never buy anything I see in an advertisement from that advertiser. Why support behavior that I do not like? If it's something I decide I really want, I buy the product (or better yet, a competing one) from someone else that hasn't irritated me with an advertisement.

Besides, realistically we don't need a good percentage of what we buy. Most advertising dollars are aimed at stripping us of what we consider our "disposable" income, i.e. money we don't need for things like housing, food, water, electricity, etc. If people were more honest with themselves about how they spend their money, they wouldn't spend a fraction of what they do on trivial things, and would put that money somewhere safe until they really need it. I've read that Americans have a very low rate of personal savings compared to the major industrialized nations, which is odd because our per-capita income is still higher than many. Well, it's odd until you watch network television for a few hours and see how we spend our money.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

heli0 (659560) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309199)

Why is this modded funny? That is exactly the methodology I use for most purchases.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309541)

We are laughing at you because you are pathetic.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309731)

You're implying that all ads ae equally effective. 90% of ads absolutely stop me from buying the product, no matter how much I can use it or how worthy it is. I haven't bought a pop-tart since the "bam" commercials came out, and I used to go through 3-4 boxes of them a week, that commercial is so horrible I probably will never buy the product again. Same thing happend with pizza-pockets several years ago, and I haven't had once since. I'm boycotting McDonalds now because of their commercials.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309909)

Advertising doesn't work like that. If you believe it does, then you too are suseptible to more subtle adverts.

Advertising rarely sells a product, in almost all mass-market adverts, the goal is to build a brand name that appeals to a large demographic.

I know this works on me, because I have studied the effects on others. I find people who claim to be immune to advertisments are often the most easily swayed by brand-name building.

Re:Avarage mind vs a / (1)

eschipul (689147) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309915)

The point is that the brand makes up for the other 6 steps for the non-/.er.

Now we just need to embed a stand-up MRI in joe-schmoe's armchair while he is watching football so we can do some REAL analysis.

boobies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308935)

big boobies
soft boobies
big, bouncing boobies
with nipples
girls with big tits in bikini
tits and ass
now that's advertising!

Re:boobies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309764)

I'll buy it.

What are you selling anyways?


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It tells us nothing we didn't know already (2, Insightful)

Have Blue (616) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308947)

Advertising has a large unconscious component; anyone who has lived in this modern world for any stretch of time knows that. This is just the first time (probably not even) that it's been documented with medical evidence. Advertisers have been researching the psychological effects of color, motion, music, and so on for decades; it's no surprise they'd eventually switch to modern instruments instead of having focus groups respond verbally or in writing.

Re:It tells us nothing we didn't know already (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309147)

It's true. I know how much color on labeling effects my purchasing decisions.

I really like white. Lots and lots of white. A little black around the edges, a word or two and a very few very low numbers.

Motion too. I like things that just kinda sit there waiting for me to pick them up. I find it rather disconcerting when I reach for the yogurt and it dances to one side and leers at me. I think that's taking the whole "active culture" thing a bit to far. I figure that when a culture reaches the pottery making stage it's pretty much past its sell by date. If it's singing opera. . . nuke the bastard until it stops.

Lack of motion, lack of color, lack of music, lack of price, that stuff always catches my eye. I guess that makes my ideal car white, cheap and busted. Go figure.

Oh, yeah, all that applies so long as it's a product I was already looking for. I can't even recall the last time I might have bought something I wasn't already looking for. But then I never claimed to have average brain function either.

Now that I think about it just about everyone I've ever met has had some comment about my brain function. What's wit dat?


Ambiguous Title (1)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308951)

The family summer camp we attended (jokingly) touted their rooms as "climate controlled". This meant that they had no A/C, and the temperature was controlled by the climate.

When I fist saw the title, I thought, "Good news, consumers are getting back some control". Then I read the rest of the article and was confused for a moment.

control... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309012)

is in the hands of the customer. If he choose not to exercise self-control, that's also his choice. But he has a choice.
I don't watch TV so I don't see ads. I also use web browser that disables ads and popups. Advertising is usually annoying, and we've known for a very long time it's also manipulative!
Anyway it all comes down to choice in the end. Free will. Good stuff!

Technology (4, Insightful)

alpha713 (701963) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308960)

It seems that technology is becoming more and more...invasive is the wrong word, never the less its the only one that comes to mind. There are so few area's of life that have not been affected by technology. This is another example of how wide spread and diversified technology has become. I'll reserve my judgement on whether this is a good or a bad thing, but to much dependance on anything is never a good thing.

Lines of thinking that lead to Terminator style future scenarios are probably paranoid on my part but at this point in time a technological failure on a widespread basis would cripple not just the US economy but economies world wide. It's part of the price that we pay for globalization.

Re:Technology (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309158)

Well, advanced technology is not the problem, in and of itself: I would argue that most of the problems we have today are because our technology is not sufficiently advanced. Time, and continuing investment in research will cure that. However, I do agree that an extreme level of interdependence is a mistake. The recent problems with the Eastern Interconnect should teach us that. This worldwide rush to connect everything with everything (and I don't mean just data, I mean with economic systems) is problematic at best. The entire European Union is, I believe, going to run into trouble at some point, because nationalism does provide a sort of breakwater against economic domino failures. We'll see.

fMRI assumptions (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7308967)

fMRIs only say there is significant activity above some baseline. It does not always equate to thoughts, processes, etc. Refer to this [] comment for an example.

It's a lot more than half (2, Insightful)

GGardner (97375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308975)

I've got bad news for the marketting people out there -- they waste a lot more than half their marketing budget. I bet 90% of the advertisements I see are completely useless to me.

Re:It's a lot more than half (1)

Enzondio (110173) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309031)

Advertising doesn't affect you in a way that you are really conscious of in most cases, I think. It's all about familiarity, repetition of a logo, or combination of colors or name or whatever. You are probably more affected than you realize.

Re:It's a lot more than half (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309084)

We were ordering pizza a few nights ago. "Hmmm, do you like Panago?" "Yeah, it's not bad...but wait, they have that annoying ad where they sing Mambo #5, but about pizza. Lets get it from somewhere else"

Whenever an ad annoys me, I make note, and never buy the product, even if it is cheapest. If I am buying something, I always consider the options, look for reviews if appropriate, etc. The best they can hope for with advertising is to NOT disqualify themselves by annoying me ;)

Re:It's a lot more than half (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309107)

Whenever an ad annoys me, I make note


Advertising has succeeded in your case. The point is not to make you "want to buy the products". It's about making you aware of the product.

Re:It's a lot more than half (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309211)

Will shitty advertising "succeed" if everyone makes a point to not buy the product in question?

Not their budget. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309170)

Since advertising is a tax writeoff, advertisers don't care that they waste 90% of their budgets, it's not their money they're wasting, it's YOUR money.

Re:It's a lot more than half (1)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309916)

I bet 90% of the adverts you see are targeted to a different demographic.

You're in a small demographic, learn to recognize this.

A side effect of your constant distain for most products is you will be more prone to be influenced by adverts that target your demographic.

Think in demographics, not individuals. They don't advertise to individuals, they advertise to demographics.

Re:It's a lot more than half (1)

snilloc (470200) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310231)

Virtually all ads (read: 99.9%) are targeted to a very specific demographic.

You can see this in political ads - they are targeted at clueless... er... "swing voters", who are often identified as suburban white women.

If you aren't a suburban white woman, you probably think most political ads are pointless.

Pointless, for those who want to trick it. (2, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308979)

Although it goes one layer closer to the source, fMRI has the same flaw as any other lie-detector system (which this basically acts as, except that instead of detecting lies, they want to detect the far less tangible "appeal" of a given advertisement).

With the classic lie detectors, you can trick them out simply by clenching the muscles in your butt - This causes a drastic spike in blood pressure, galvanic skin response goes nuts - basically all the classic indicators of stress become totally random.

With fMRI, or PET, or any other "direct" brain imaging technology, a comparable technique exists - Think about sex. Thanks to our brain's hard-wired affinity for reproduction, thinking about sex will completely dominate over most other brain activity. Think graphically. Think in pictures. Try to imagine smells, tastes, what the tolerably hot-in-a-geeky-way research assistant looks like naked, whatever. This will guarantee the results end up totally meaningless.

Any other strong emotion will work as well, but for most people, thinking about sex comes easiest to fake.

Re:Pointless, for those who want to trick it. (1)

Jameth (664111) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309017)

Also, this will mean advertisements using sex-appeal will rank extremely high, even though thousands of real studies have shown that sex-appeal in advertisement has no real advantage, except maybe that it's really easy to do and not particularly worse than other adds.

Re:Pointless, for those who want to trick it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309894)

not particularly worse than other adds

Durr.... pot, kettle, black [] .

Re:Pointless, for those who want to trick it. (1)

philbert26 (705644) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309423)

Although it goes one layer closer to the source, fMRI has the same flaw as any other lie-detector system (which this basically acts as, except that instead of detecting lies, they want to detect the far less tangible "appeal" of a given advertisement).

But are people who volunteer for fMRI studies going to try to screw the results? This reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes [] cartoon where Calvin fills in a marketing survey for bubble gum, and requests something weird like "curry flavor" just because he likes to mess with the marketing people.

just make a decent product that actually works (3, Interesting)

kaltkalt (620110) | more than 10 years ago | (#7308991)

...and if people need it, they'll buy it. Advertisers need to quit trying so hard to lie, deceive, and manipulate people. Then they need to all kill themselves in the most painful way possible.

Just make a friggin product that does what it's supposed to do, works well, and doesn't break after 90 days. Word of mouth is the only legitimate form of advertising, and you have to earn that through the merit of your product... you can't buy it.

Re:just make a decent product that actually works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309217)

Tell that to the thousands of people who buy a geo metro instead of a honda civic or toyota corolla.

Re:just make a decent product that actually works (1)

relativePositioning (661852) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309310)

Aparantly these "stupid people" are making profit on "stupid products" at the expense of decent products that actually work.

Maybe people creating decent products should also package them in appealing ways as well, rather than depending entirely on word-of-mouth.

Generally its a good idea to think about and craft every aspect of a product and not just its utility. Beauty, intended market, and product position are all important to consumers of commercial products.

Re:just make a decent product that actually works (1)

jwilcox154 (469038) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309384)

Advertisers need to quit trying so hard to lie, deceive, and manipulate people.

I could just imagine what would happen if Advertisements were more truthful today,

"Volvo, they're Boxy but they're good";
"Metamucil. It helps you go to the toilet." and
"The French can be annoying. Come to Greece, we're nicer.".

Re:just make a decent product that actually works (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310219)

Unfortunately, word of mouth doesn't always work in a world of M$-like monopolies. No matter how good your product is, if nobody can hear about it over the din of the ads for some other product, it won't usually sell. Now, there are exceptions, but those are too risky to rely on.

More than 1/2 their money is being wasted here... (5, Interesting)

Qeyser (6788) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309013)

fMRI is a great research technique -- I've worked with it for years -- but I think that zealous companies that want to find the best way to tickle comsumers' brains are going to be pretty disappointed in fMRI as a marketing research tool. (And at $400+/hr, their disappointment is going to cost them . . .)

What these companies want is to be able to look at a scan of someone viewing/thinking about their product and to then be able to say, "Aha, he really wants this!", or, "She is debating on whether shee needs this," or even perhaps, "This product makes him feel secure."

That's bullshit -- its mindreading -- and given what we know about the brain and the signals that can be read in an fMRI, it can't be done. Perhaps one day, far in the future, something like that will be possible. Right now, though, people are still debating what exactly it means (in terms of neural activity) when you see a brain region "light up" in an fMRI scan. And even if we could know how exactly fMRI signals and neural activity relate, there's still a /vast/ dearth of knowledge about what various brain areas actually do, what they represent and how, etc. Maybe one day neuromarketing will pay off, but I honestly don't think it will be any time soon.


Re:More than 1/2 their money is being wasted here. (2, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309119)

It seems like what this can do now is to say to Coke "yes, your branding scheme has worked." But Coke already knows that - that's why they're beating Pepsi in the market. This is also unhelpful because it's a test of what *has worked over time*, not what *will work over time*. What is being measured is the impression Coke has made over the people in the test over the course of their lives.

The problem with this is that it doesn't tell Pepsi what to do to get the same results. Pepsi can't sit in the lab and tweak their image until they get the same results, because what's being measured isn't the effectiveness of a new image, but the degree of recognition of a well-known image.

Re:More than 1/2 their money is being wasted here. (1)

Qeyser (6788) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309179)

I absolutely agree. I think that basic psychology has done alot for marketing, and if you want to develop a product that is desiriable, basic psych is what you should use -- not a scanner.

Re:More than 1/2 their money is being wasted here. (2, Insightful)

oscarcar (208055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309140)

This is my general take on the technology too, and I've done some work with it also.

I see it as much like the mapping of the genome. It gets at the basics but we still don't know much about how the basic building blocks interact. The basic building blocks are the easy part. The interactivity, and non-linear relationship between things is where we don't even have a clue. And that's far more complex than the scratching of the surface we're doing right now.

Mind Marketting (1, Funny)

clinko (232501) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309025)

All I know is that there's ads in pissers all over NYC.

This morning I woke up, hung over, and a strange desire to switch over to Cingular's 1000 Minute with rollover plan.

Doesn't change cunsumers (3, Interesting)

vishakh (188958) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309043)

So many studies are done about consumer behavior and advertisers' tactics and, yet, consumers behave exactly as they did before. For example, research [] by Elizabeth Loftus [] at UCI has shown that advertisers like Disney routinely implant memories into us. In one of her studies, subjects even believes that they had seen Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. Even after this was widely reported by the media, Disney ads have stayed the same and are still as likely to "fall prey" to them.

Obviously, the benefits to advertisers and consumers are quite asymmetrical from all this research. Advertisers can actually refine their techniques and perhaps learn new ones. Consumers, on the other hand, may be a little more educated but they certainly are more easily seduced. While this is not absolutely bad and may even be good in some ways, the fact remains that with increasingly power research tools like fMRI mentioned here, the potential for corporations to absolutely manipulate us increases. I'm sure that things will work out in the future, as they have always done. However, research into "defenses" against memory implantation, et al does need to be conducted.

Re:Doesn't change cunsumers (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309330)

Much of Loftus' research is on false memories and not on memory implantations. For example, you falsely remembered the Bugs Bunny at Disneyland study as Disney implanting memories. I don't think such a claim was made by Loftus and colleagues. Her point was that memories are NOT snapshots but are ultimately RECONSTRUCTIONS of the past. People tend to fill the gaps as they rebuild the memory according to the present context. Furthermore, Disney and Time-Warner are competitors. Why in the world would Disney want people to remember Bugs Bunny, a Warner-Brothers characters?

To paraphrase what could be happening in people's mind in the Bugs Bunny study:

"I was in Disneyland, a context of cartoon characters. The question is asking me about Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny is a cartoon character. Therefore, Bugs Bunny must have been present in DisneyLand."

To paraphrase what could have been happening when you were recalling the Bugs Bunny study you've read in Psychology or Cognition:

"I'm on slashdot reading about the evils of advertisers. I remember a Disney and Bugs Bunny study by Loftus about memory. Hmmm. Evil advertisers. Disney is sufficiently evil. Memories. Evil and memory. Memory Implantation. Therefore the study must have been about memory implantation by Disney."

I'm not implying that this was your explicit route of reasoning. Rather these could be concepts being active during the recall and your mind interpreted it as accordingly.

NYT and Fox News (0, Offtopic)

Homology (639438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309088)

Why are you North Americans (not Canadians) using NYT all the time for "information"? There are other sources for information (even in US), and no, Fox News don't qualify.

Re:NYT and Fox News (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309129)

Suggestions? I am curious.

Re:NYT and Fox News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309268)

*shrug* I'm american but I prefer to read BBC ( before any american media site. I'll typically also check a few asian and european news sites too (at least the ones that have an english version). Oh yeah, and Al-Jazeera of course.
And hey, google news is great! It links to a lot of varied sources.

Simple (2, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309096)

Most importantly, what does brain state tell us about behavior, if anything?

For most men, nothing. You really need to be looking a little further south for the control center.

fMRI measures blood flow, not brain activity (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309135)

fMRI doesn't tell you what neurons do with any spatial or temporal accuracy.

See this paper: []

The authors find that:
* fMRI gives you a really strong signal in the blood vessels
* Less than 50% of the time, when you average the neural activity over several SECONDS (an action potential lasts 0.015s), and over 1 cubic CENTIMETER (containing 10^8 neurons), fMRI tells you something about that average activity. Only problem is: we know that this averaging can work in SI, the brain area studied in the paper. For other brain areas, who knows?

Not to mention the issues with statistics in fMRI.

There are a very few groups doing good MRI studies, e.g. Heeger, Boynton, but they study humans doing relatively simple things.
Marketing is NOT simple. Marketing + fMRI = crap.

functional scans (2, Informative)

sireenmalik (309584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309154)

Its PET or fMRI for functional scans. If i understand it correctly with MRI there are two clear advantages over PET scanners:
1. no radio-active agent is needed, and
2. the radiologists get the functional as well as the anotomical details- the flesh and its function, to say vulgalrly.

With the latest 3D imaging tools available with diagnostic machines its easy for the neuro-surgeons to plan the surgeries to much better detail.

Marketing is another issue. Obviously the customers are either radiologists or neuro-surgoens. The two people are tuned to their professional habits. It would be hard for the marketing/sales people to cause the change. My opinion is that companies need a pack of very good application-specialists. Application-specialists are breed of people who not only understand how the phased-array coils work but can also explain the C, T and L spine to the radiologists with equivalent ease! So maybe the diagnostic companies focus on their applicaiton-specialists instead of wasting too much on ads etc. Pure marketing/sales skills will not be enough for such a specialized tool.

Re:functional scans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309542)

Though PET does offer two advantages over fMRI, depending on what exactly it is you are trying to image:

1) PET measures real blood flow in real world units. fMRI measures small changes in radio signal intensity, and there's no easy way to translate that into a physiologically relevant measure.

2) Some parts of the brain (the cortical areas near the sinuses, for example) are hard to get reliable signals from due to flesh/bone/air/fluid
interfaces nearby. I'm not an expert on MRI theory, but my understanding is that the magnetic field near these areas is not as homogenous as it should be, which makes interpreting the signals from there very difficult. PET doesn't suffer from these problems.


Just a friendly hello (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309202)

As usual, Neal Stephenson beatchya there [] ;)

"You'll be hearing from me again very soon, I'm sure."


That's just great (1, Redundant)

sjames (1099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309210)

Perhaps, while we're doing studies, we should study the psychological impact of people ( children in particular) being told nearly continuously that their lives are inadequate, they are inadequate, they're unappealing, and that their real value to society (and chance for a passible life) is measured solely by what they own and the products they use.

Ads aimed at children and teens especially seem to lean on that message.

In other words, the effects of long term psychological abuse.

Note that not all advertisement does that, but it seems that a good bit of it does.

Re:That's just great (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310243)

I can't believe this got modded interesting. "Oh god, won't someone think of the children!". Please. Advertising isn't going away, no amount of wishful thinking will make it. It's better they grow up with it now so that their minds can become more resistant to it when they are adults and have real purchasing power.

HuCoNOS - Human Computer Network Operating System (1)

leoaugust (665240) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309299)

The idea is not too far-fetched if you decide to model the consumer, or in my analogy the node of a network, as-if the node is a computer with the 5 parts,


Ignore the input, ouput, and the storage which are primarily determined by the initial conditions of the node .... and you are left with MEMORY & CPU.

In MEMORY the SYMBOLS remain the same while we flow thru the symbol-space, and in CPU the symbol-space remains the same while the SYMBOLS flow thru the it... This is the essential duality that is at the core of the nature of reality - of timelessness and temporality; of static and dynamic; of data and methods; of intuition and logic .... and we are always flipping from one part of the duality to the other, and never fully reaching the other because along the way we find ourselves in the third state of the duality which makes it a trinity but it essentially at the higher level reveals itself as the duality ...

In this duality it is hard to determine the logic or the CPU aspect of the node, and it is hard to model the the third state that is the meta-state MEMORY-CPU ... but we are still left with the MEMORY.

It is this memory that we are now able to model using the fMRI ... although we are using a black-box and perturbation method to model our MEMORY-center. In the larger picture the errors that are introduced by dropping the CPU-aspect, and the MEMORY-CPU aspect of the node embedded in a network, can overwhelm the hypothesis that are derived from the MEMORY modelling by black-box-perturbation, but that is all we really have to start with ....

The key aspect now is that though we can only probabilistically model the node, or consumer, in the network, the probabilities tend towards deterministic as the networks get larger and larger .... meaning that no matter how small the probabilities of a certain behavior based on the studies of memories, there is a good chance that in the large network a group of exhibiting that behavior exists ...

Anyway, the point that I wanted to develop was that in adition to having a certain number of people whose behavior can be predicted by MEMORY, there is a lot of us whose behavior deliberately tends towards this automatic bypassing of CPU, i.e. thinking ... and no less a person than A.N. Whitehead said that "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. " So, I guess the more advanced we get, the more we will be suseptible to the fMRI .....

just a thought ....

Re:HuCoNOS - Human Computer Network Operating Syst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310340)

Huh!? What are you saying?? I don't understand!
And where are the boobies!??
Mmmm... boobies!

This shit doesn't work. (-1, Troll)

rushibhai (683061) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309316)

Trust me. Stick to Perl+C. Oops! Forgot this is related to brain science.. fMRI, AFAIK, has so far been successful in producing partially convincing results only for very basic sensory+motor activities (I know some people will claim otherwise, but that's more related to the economics of the enterprise than science). Besides, the signal-noise ratio is so low (of the order of a percent? I forget) that anything of a higher order like personal preferences will either be indiscriminable from noise or will be an artefact of your brain responding simply to the stimulus. AKA, there is not a simple way of controlling the stimulus related effects. E.g., my bottle is flashier than yours and therefore it's going to produce more brain activity. That doesn't mean that my bottle is more appealing than yours or the fluid in my bottle is tastier etc.. So yeah. Whatever. Looks like another way to justify a million dollar machine that only re-confirms what's already been observed in monkeys. That is not an entirely useless thing to do, though.

Idiot scientist (3, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309325)

What's more, the brain activity of the subjects was now different. There was also activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers. Apparently, the subjects were meditating in a more sophisticated way on the taste of Coke, allowing memories and other impressions of the drink -- in a word, its brand -- to shape their preference.

Note the bias here in the interpretation of the results. The eliciting of a stronger response in more primitive areas of the brain - which Pepsi reportedly does when neither is named - is viewed as the more objective reality. While a response which involves higher areas of the brain which are concerned with the aesthetics of it is just a matter of "brand." Further, there's the implication that when the higher areas of aesthetic appreciation are active we're being more manipulated by brand, and missing the reality, as defined by the most primitive reaction, which could well be based on Pepsi having a sweeter taste.

In all likelihood a splotch of bright red will have a stronger reaction from primitive brain areas than will a fine landscape painting (we're strongly programmed to respond to red since it's often a sign of blood and danger). By the logic of this researcher (at least as reported by the Times) our considered preference for the landscape painting over the splotch of bright red is a sort of manipulation by the brand "landscape painting," or perhaps the brandname of the painter. While there's some small degree of truth to this, isn't it largely back asswards?

Re:Idiot scientist (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309405)

These things are not parallel at all - the landscape can be appreciated at a higher level then s splotch of red, since there is a lot more complexity to a landscape. You don't need to be told that the painting is a landscape to appreciate it.

On the other hand Pepsi tastes better in a blind setting but worse when you know that the other liquit is Coke. The higher cognitive functions clearly override the basic perceptions.

The situation could perhaps be compared to a piece of modern art, which you do not perceive as art, until you are told that it's art.

Re:Idiot scientist (1)

uncadonna (85026) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309662)

Parent misses grandparent's point. Yes, Coke branding overrides Pepsi flavor. But crude brain scans don't tell us why. The article offers no evidence that the observed effect is not simply response to color. No one is arguing against this experiment being a demonstration of the importance of branding. People are just expressing skepticism that the brain scans add any value to that result.

Re:Idiot scientist (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309794)

What do you mean, response to color? The subjects are just _told_ that something is Coke and it causes a measurable and specific change in their brain activity. It certainly seems interesting from the scientific point of view. Whether it is helpful for marketing, etc., I have no idea.

Well, here it is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7309593)

I, for one, welcome the arrival of our new advertising overlords.

Just switch of "ad-infested" media... (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309720)

...and/or build a better "ad-trap" ;-)

fMRI and Advertising (1)

herwin (169154) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309762)

The research described in the article is actually well-advanced--we're beginning to localize higher mental functions. Once the fundies notice this, their reaction should make their crusade against evolution look like small bananas. Why? Because this is one of the trains of experimental evidence that neuroscientists have used to demonstrate that the soul almost certainly does not exist in the religious sense. See tine/no-soul.html for a discussion.

Very dodgy science, IMO (done PhD in fMRI) (3, Informative)

itchyfidget (581616) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309807)

Firstly, you can't have a "stronger" or "higher" or "larger" fMRI response - the most you can have is a larger probability that the signal you are reading in a particular region of the brain is not due to chance but to manipulation of your experimental variable (in this case, the drink being drunk). A comparison between two such probabalistic values (in the article, the degree of 'activation' in the ventral putamen) is pretty much meaningless. The experiment also doesn't control for the possibility that more people in the sample just prefer Coke (at least, from the information given in the article, this is the implication). One of my supervisors was approached a couple of years ago by a film distributor, who wanted to show fMRI pictures of someone just sitting, versus someone reading a book, versus someone watching a film - the desired effect being, of course, to show that films recruit more of the brain. Duh! It would have worked, and been a legitimate thing to do - but they wanted it in a matter of days (and with pretty pictures too!) - this stuff takes time, at least with our facilities it does. So, no deal. In terms of whether fMRI and similar techniques tell you anything ... hmm. Kinda. But results are consistently over-interpreted by many in the scientific community, and as has been pointed out in other posts, fMRI measures local blood flow, not neuronal activity (blood flow, by the way, can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as caffeine, which is a vasodilator ... so if either Coke or Pepsi contained more caffeine than the other, that could partially account, potentially, for differential fMRI results) And don't even start me on using functional imaging techniques as "lie-detectors" ... There's a long way to go, and anyone who says different really IS selling something.

All wasted... (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309822)

Personally, all the money spent on advertising is wasted on me. Simply because of the obnoxious ads, either content or running the same lump'o'doodoo 2 or 3 times in a row, I will not buy that product. Whenever an ad comes up, I either change the channel or radio station. Take that Ad Exec and smoke it.

Maybe so, but the facts are there. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309893)

I wasn't very happy with the article. I can taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and I like Coke better, as do most people. Pepsi has a more sugary taste. People apparently don't want that in a strictly recreational drink. Beer is another example; it is bitter.

Medical Ethics (1)

TastySiliconWafers (581409) | more than 10 years ago | (#7309905)

Thus far, I've seen a lot of posts saying that this doesn't work or that if it works then it's a terrible thing because it gives advertisers the ability to manipulate the subconscious mind to make you buy stuff you don't need. But, there's a greater question of ethics here. Why are these advertisers being given access to a scarce medical research resource (magnet time) when there are so many other things that could be done with that resource for the benefit of humankind? How can someone's priorities be so screwed up as to give questionable advertising research precedence over other clearly legitimate scientific pursuits?
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