MindSign Neuromarketing is helping develop a new kind of “neurocinema”. The company is using real-time brain scans to observe people’s reactions to on-screen activity, providing an inside look into what micro-details excites viewers the most.
The company uses the scanning technique to track blood flow to specific areas (especially the amygdalae, those darling little almonds of primal emotion) while a test subject watches a movie. Right now, the metrics are pretty crude, but in theory, studios could use fMRI to fine-tune a movies thrills, chills, and spills with clickwheel ease, keeping your brain perpetually at the redline. MindSign cofounder Philip Carlsen said in an NPR interview that he foresees a future where directors send their dailies (raw footage fresh from the set) to the MRI lab for optimization. You can actually make your movie more activating, he said, based on subjects brains.
MindSign has already helped advertisers dial in their commercials second-by-second noggin delight and has even assisted studios in refining movie trailers and TV spots: One of its videographs, mapped over a trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, clearly shows viewers brains lighting up whenever a monkey appears onscreen. (Of course, if theres one thing we dont need a computer to tell us, its that monkeys are funny.) Now the company wants to replace that ancient analog heuristic, the dreaded focus group. Carlsen claims that focus group members not only misrepresent the likes and dislikes of the broader population they cant even articulate their own preferences. Often, theyll tell a human researcher one thing while the fMRI reveals theyre feeling the opposite.