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Small 'neural focus groups' predict anti-smoking ad success
Date:4/25/2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Brain scans of a small group of people can predict the actions of entire populations, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The findings are relevant to political advertising, commercial market research and public health campaigns, and broaden the use of brain imaging from a diagnostic to a predictive tool.

As opposed to the wisdom of the crowd, the study suggests that the neurological reactions of a fewreactions that people are not even consciously aware of and that differ from the opinions they expresscan predict the responses of many other people to ad campaigns promoting specific behaviors.

"Brain responses to ads forecasted the ads' success when other predictors failed," said Emily Falk, director of the U-M Communication Neuroscience Lab and lead author of the study, which appears online in Psychological Science.

"Our findings could help design better health campaigns. This is a key step in reducing the number of smokers and reducing deaths from cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses."

The findings, she said, might also help produce more effective political campaign ads and provide a neural roadmap to why some videos, fashions, behaviors and ideas go viral, moving from one person to many thousands of others via social media.

Falk conducted the study with Elliot Berkman of Oregon and Matthew Lieberman of UCLA. The researchers were supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

For the study, the researchers recruited 31 heavy smokers with a strong desire to quit, and examined their neural responses to three anti-smoking ad campaigns, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All of the ads directly urged viewers to call the National Cancer Institute's tobacco quit-line (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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