Imagine you had the ability to measure people’s emotional responses to just about everything – movies, advertisements, speeches, trainings, educational seminars, videos, live reports.
That’s every brand owner’s dream – and the reason companies spend so much time and money on focus groups and surveys – because if you can understand precisely what makes people “feel” a certain way, you can predict their future behavior.
The problem with most methods of recording user satisfaction is that they rely on self-reporting, which has proven to be somewhat inaccurate and inadequate. Enter Immersion Neuroscience. Immersion Neuroscience’s sensor and software platform lets a company know how its product is being perceived by consumers, how to make it better, and who might be willing to purchase from and remain loyal to its brand.
I recently sat down with Dr. Paul Zak, an author, a Claremont Graduate University professor, and co-founder of Immersion Neuroscience, to learn more.
Bracha Halperin: Why did you create Immersion Neuroscience?
Dr. Paul Zak: My group has spent 15 years identifying the brain signals that reveal how good something is, and we wanted to make our technology available to any business that cares about creating great experiences for its clients and employees.
None of us wants a bad shopping experience, or a so-so romantic partner, or a bad teacher in our classroom. Our clients are using our software to measure all these experiences and more in order to create more impactful and enjoyable experiences.
How does Immersion Neuroscience work?
Users wear a sensor on the forearm that our software uses to identify neurologic signals that show when people really care about an experience. When they do, their brains create a set of neurochemicals that we track, including one called oxytocin.
We call the neurologic state when the brain makes these chemicals “immersion,” or a deep connection to what is going on. When we are immersed in an experience, we will act on the information, remember it better, and share it with others.
How is the tracking done? And over what period of time?
Our sensors and software collect data every second. Our clients have tested political ads as short as six seconds and others have collected data at corporate meetings for 10 hours.
Is it really better than focus groups and surveys?
The brain is not designed to accurately reveal its unconscious emotional state. We can ask people to tell us [about their emotional states], but studies show that their answers don’t predict what they will do.
Our algorithms [in contrast] predict actions with very high accuracy. For example, we can predict sales increases from advertising with 83 percent accuracy, TV ratings with 88 percent accuracy, and who will purchase while shopping with 84 percent accuracy. No other information source is close to being this accurate.
Why is there such a discrepancy between how people think they feel and how they really feel? Do people not know what they’re feeling or are they lying?
That’s the key question. People lie because they want to give the answer they think is “right,” or that the researcher wants to hear, or they just don’t know.
How much do you like your coffee right now? There is no objective answer for this question, and neurologically the conscious answer depends on if you are tired, hungry, alone, with others, etc.
Asking people how much they like something is akin to asking how much your liver likes processing the meal you just had. It makes no sense. We have found that “liking” is the wrong question. Businesses do not care if you like their commercial; they care if you buy the advertised item. That’s what our technology, refined over many years, does so well.
How did people react when they saw the data of Immersion Neuroscience?
Everyone is interested in what their brain is doing, so it’s a blast to put people in an experience, like watching a movie, and then seeing if they dislike it, like it, or love it. We are the only neuroscience company that lets clients see predictive brain data in real time.
Most of the major movie studios are our clients, as are TV production companies, management consultants, schools, luxury brands, and more. Clients are increasingly demanding great experiences and our technology helps companies deliver on this demand.
Could Immersion Neuroscience be used in career counseling? In classrooms? For children who have difficulty with emotions, like those with Asperger’s or Autism?
Our first clients were in advertising and entertainment. More recent clients are in training, education, live events, employee performance, and more. This year we are testing new features to guide providers in medicine and psychiatry.
What do you think the next step in this industry is?
The neuroscience-as-a-solution industry is tiny, but having individual data in real time is the future. It will allow companies to provide, not just one general experience, but the kind of experiences each individual really wants. It’s been called “mass customization,” and I think it’s the future because I get want I really want, not what someone else wants.