Brain selects which commercial is good and which is bad; Research

Researchers have found the relation between the brain and the impact of advertisements on brain.

This research has been done by researchers from University of California, Los Angeles and has been published online in the journal of Psychological Science.

Brain's medial prefrontal cortex
Brain’s medial prefrontal cortex

[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /]Researchers have selected about 30 smokers between the ages of 28 and 69 and about 50% were female, who were trying to quit smoking. They were shown three different advertising campaigns in which the phone number of National Cancer Institute was shown at the end for smoking cessation. They were then asked which commercial they liked the most whether “A”, “B” or “C”. They said that the commercials A and B were the best and C was the worst. The researchers than asked the experts for commercials, who also said that A and B are best and C is the worst commercial.

While watching the advertisement researchers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of the participants at UCLA’s Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and mainly focused on the medial prefrontal cortex, located between the eyebrows in front of the brain, which is found to be important in previous persuasion studies. They have found that the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the participants increased while watching C but the activity was decreased for A and B.

“The medial prefrontal cortex predicted ‘C’ would be the best, ‘B’ would be second best and ‘A’ would be the worst — essentially the opposite of what the experts and the participants told us they thought would happen,” said the study’s senior author, Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences.

“We didn’t expect how radically different people’s predictions would be from the predictions we made based on their brain activity,” said Lieberman, one of the founders of social cognitive neuroscience. “We had people telling us one thing and this brain region telling us something diametrically opposed.”

Researchers have reported that this persuasion research has cleared that neural activity in a medial prefrontal region predicted the population response.

Lieberman has noted persuasion research has many applications, “including how teachers can communicate better so their students won’t tune out and how doctors can convince patients to stick to their instructions. We all use persuasion in some form or another every day.”


Emily B. Falk, Elliot T. Berkman, Matthew D. Lieberman, (2012). From Neural Responses to Population Behavior, Neural Focus Group Predicts Population-Level Media Effects. Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/0956797611434964

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