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Neuroscience – Tools for Business?

In a recent Insightrix article on neuroscience, we discussed the trend of neuromarketing, or as preferred for our purposes, using neuroscience tools and methodologies in the field of market research.

Aside from leaving many wracked with existential dread, the article on neuroscience raises a few questions about how the processes described in the post actually work and how they are useful in the field of market research.

If you haven’t yet, you may want to give it a read, as it will fill in any blanks from this post and tell you why this is relevant to market research.

As Insightrix is all about providing answers, we decided to write another blog article to talk about it and provide some clarity regarding the ways neuroscience is used in market research.

In the last post, we mention EEG, eye tracking and facial coding, so we’ll go from there.

EEG (Electroencephalogram) 

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EEG (electroencephalogram) can be a powerful addition to the toolkit of market researchers.

In the field of market research, EEG biosensors are used to measure changes in participants’ brain activity to try to track changes in participants’ levels of attention to what they are seeing and/or hearing.

With interpretation, this can be a useful tool for researchers wishing to know what parts of their content (video/commercial/film/etc.) held an audience’s attention best, and where that audience’s attention strayed from their message.

EEGs monitor changes in the electrical activity in the brain and allow researchers to measure changes in the levels of attention participants  experience when viewing and/or listening to content (video/advertisement/movie clip/etc.), or when trying a new product.

Theoretically, when attention is high, electrical activity in the brain increases, and when attention is low, electrical activity falls.

With data derived from this process, market researchers can discover what points of the experience were most interesting (held participants’ attention), and what parts caused attention to drift.

EEG biosensors are relatively small and, as a result, they are portable. This means marketers can use them almost anywhere (stores, theatres, wherever) to get responses and data in natural settings.

 

Eye Tracking 

 

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Now that you are armed with the understanding of what your participants’ attention levels are doing, you’ll need to have some kind of way to find out where that attention is being directed.

That’s where eye tracking comes in.

Eye trackers are usually portable, multi-camera apparatuses that track participants’ eye-movements (of course), how long something is looked at and (in some models) even track the number of times a participant blinks. The data generated from this lets market researchers know just where participants are looking, and for how long they looked at it.

Many eye trackers are extra useful, in that they come with software that allows researchers to designate specific elements in the test material to see how many times a specific field was looked at, and how long and how many people looked at it. This can be very useful if you want to know how noticeable a brand logo or your visual messaging is.

Data from eye trackers is represented with the help of some handy and sophisticated software in graphic visualizations. Generally, these visualizations can be in the form of Heat Mapping, Bee Swarms (no, not real bees) and/or Gaze Plotting. If you want to see what this looks like, check out the video attached to this post. 

Like EEG biosensors, eye trackers are relatively inexpensive and can be set up almost anywhere – some can even be attached to laptops or phones.When used in conjunction with other neuro tools and tried-and-true techniques like in-depth interviews and focus groups, eye trackers can provide very powerful data. 

Facial Coding

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Now that you think you understand at what points your participant is interested and attentive, and to where and at what your participant is looking, it would be nice to have some idea about what your participant might be feeling in regards to what she is looking at.

This is where facial coding can be useful.

Facial coding uses existing facial recognition technology (like the kind they use to track down criminals or create matches on dating sites) to try to learn about participants’ emotional state in relation to test materials.

With cameras and some really complicated software, researchers try to detect seven basic, universal emotions in participants. These emotions have been proven through a great deal of testing and re-testing (of the scientific kind) to be associated to seven basic facial expressions (disgust, delight, sadness, skeptical, surprised, fear and negative emotions like anger).

These facial expressions are universal and are the same in everybody, regardless of age, culture or ethnic background.

It is hoped that using facial coding technology as a tool in market research can allow researchers to read their participants’ emotional responses before they are able to rationalize them into thought and words. The goal is to give an impression of the knee-jerk responses your test materials engender in observers – data that is useful if you want to know if your product is being well received or not.

And there it is…

There you have it – some of the most common tools used in the field of neuroscience, and particularly, in neuroscience as it employed in the field of market research.

It doesn’t take a degree in neuropsychology or neurobiology, or even one in marketing, to understand how, when put together with the other tools described in this article and adept interpretation, combined with tried-and-true market research methodologies like in-depth interviews and focus groups, can come together to make a powerful toolkit for market researchers.

With that said, these techniques require a caveat when used in market research in that they are useful and appropriate only in specific settings.

The human mind is ridiculously complex, and attempting to understand its processes through machines can produce less trustworthy data if well-defined and rigorous research design is not put in place. Most market researchers who employ neuroscience methodologies advocate their use in conjunction with tried-and-true market research methodologies like focus groups and/or in-depth interviews.

If you’d like to understand more about why neuroscience in market research is used in the first place, check out this article about just that.

Keep checking back to the Insightrix blog regularly for updates on how Insightrix uses neuroscience and other cutting-edge techniques and methodologies in its own client projects.

 

 

Sources:

neursky.com/neuromarketing-and-eeg-measuring-engagement-in-advertising

scholar.google.ca/ijps/article

lcbr-online.com/index_files/proceedingsemc12

greenbookblog.org/neuromarketing-identifying-the-fact-from-the-fiction/