Neuroscience Using EEG


In April 2017, a leading insurance firm contracted Insightrix Research Inc. to conduct neuroscientific market research testing on television advertisements among Saskatchewan residents.


The research aimed to understand how neuroscientific measurements could further enhance advertising testing by observing how consumers respond to television public service announcements on an unconscious level. The end goal was to understand how this new form of research could help the client develop more effective television advertisements in the future.


Further, for Insightrix, the project was undertaken as a means by which to understand the viability of using neuroscience methodologies and techniques in further studies.


To meet the client’s objectives:  


Insightrix conducted 20 interviews in Saskatoon – 10 exclusively with men aged 20 to 44 years, and 10 with teens aged 16 to 19. Interviews took place between April 18 and 21.


Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes, and each participant received an honorarium of $75 for their time.


Three pieces of neuroscience equipment (EEG, eye tracker and facial coding equipment and software) were employed to attempt to capture and record participants’ unrationalized emotions and nonverbalized data.

Each interview consisted of:


  1. Fitting and calibrating equipment
  2. Viewing four advertisements in succession, occurring in a randomized order
  3. A debrief discussion (This included showing the participant her/his rendered data and seeking insights based on reactions captured by the equipment)

It was the goal of this process to determine what parts of the advertisement were being viewed, what levels of attention the ads received and what emotions were expressed during viewing as a means of determining the success of the advertisement.


Insightrix discovered several takeaways from this project that speak to the capability and viability of using neuroscience techniques and methodologies in future projects:


  • Participant attention tends to peak immediately before traumatic occurrences in anticipation of events (car crashes, sudden falls, accidents, etc.), then begins to fall even while events play out. Some respondents report that once the aftermath or realization occurs, they feel the need to step back or withdraw, which can be seen in EEG results. Others cite their attention may have dropped as soon as their predictions were confirmed.


  • The eye tracker shows viewers tend to look at the centre of the screen most of the time. This effect becomes diversified if images of three or more people are on screen at once.


  • Sharp video transitions result in nearly a one-second delay for viewers to adjust and focus on the new scene.


  • Emotionally complex scenes and images can mentally withdraw viewers from television/video advertisements. This does not mean such images should be avoided but rather highlights that these images are impactful enough for viewers to change their level of attention.


  • Viewer attention is fickle and can change rapidly throughout an advertisement.

Potential testing applications for this technology include understanding which portions of an advertisement should be edited because of low or unfavourable impact, testing different options within a particular advertisement (e.g., choice of music or visuals, message placement, voiceovers, etc.) and ensuring the success of online streaming advertising by verifying high attention early in the process to minimize “skip ad” behaviour.    


It was also determined that neuroscience technology and similar methodologies would benefit the testing of other media, such as print, outdoor, radio and website advertising, and benchmarking key indicators and moments in advertisements, such as before an anticipated event or message display.    


Insightrix gained further insight into the process of the application of neuroscience in market research through this project, as well. The Paramount of these was that this project’s technology and neuroscience methodologies would be an asset in further advertising development.