Could measuring brainwaves predict a movie’s success?

You might think you’re pretty good at guessing whether you’ll enjoy a movie or not, but measuring your brainwaves could be a better way to predict what will appeal to you.

Maarten A. S. Boksem and Ale Smidts from Erasmus University already knew that our subconscious mind and conscious mind can often be in conflict without us realising it. So they set out to find out whether monitoring brainwaves would be a more accurate way to find out what we’ll like.

They asked participants in their study to sit in front of a computer screen and speakers in a darkened room. Then they played them 18 trailers for different movies, shown in a random order to each person. The participants were hooked up to an EEG (electroencephalography) machine while they watched. This uses electrodes to measure the small levels of electrical activity that run across our scalps as neurons fire.

Afterward, each person was asked to rate how much they liked the different trailers, and how much they’d pay for their own copy. They were then given DVDs of all the films to organise in order of preference, and given their top three. But despite thinking they knew their own mind, they didn’t.

The researchers found that the EEG reading was much more accurate at predicting which DVDs participants would go home with than their own stated preferences. Whether that’s because we’re trying to impress others by pretending we only like moody foreign films or we’re just not great at listening to our intuition is unclear, but our brainwaves can’t be faked.

Boksem and Ale Smidts conclude that their study is great news for Hollywood, where an incredible 75% of films make a loss. It could also be a much more reliable way for brands to find out what customers want.

Is the thought of a future where we’re constantly hooked up to machines so that corporations can find out our true desires completely terrifying? Yes. But if it means never having to sit through another Adam Sandler trailer again, maybe it’s worth it.

Image via Digitalarti’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley