Initially, Lieberman and first author Emily Falk, an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at the University of MichiganAnn Arbor, were concerned when they saw the results from the medial prefrontal cortex.
"We were hoping the brain data would add something to the self-reports of our participants," Lieberman said. "Given how different they were from one another, we were afraid our brain data might not end up predicting the real-world outcomes at all."
A few months later, after the advertisements had been broadcast, the authors received the call-volume data from the National Cancer Institute's 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline. They compared the number of people who called the hotline the month before and the month after each of the advertising campaigns was run. All three advertising campaigns were successful in increasing the number of phone calls to the hotline. Campaign "A" more than doubled the number of calls, "B" increased the number of calls more than ten-fold and "C" boosted the number of calls a remarkable thirty-fold. (The advertisements were shown in Michigan, Massachusetts and Louisiana.)
Activity in the medial prefrontal cortex predicted which ads persuaded more people to call the hotline significantly better than the smokers' own thoughts about how successful the ads would be.
The research is published this month in the online edition of the journal Psychological Science, the premier journal for psychological science research, with print publication to follow.
What are the implications for the advertising industry, which often relies, at least partly, on unscientific focus groups?
"If people are making decisions based on what focus groups tell them
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles