Startup uses neuroscience to pick which ads work

Instantaneous judgements are an intrinsic part of our visual system. Neuroscientists are now taking the science behind those judgements to inform marketing strategies.

Have you ever had a friend try to assure you that really, not everyone is out there judging you?

I hate to tell you this, but cognition researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say your friend is wrong. Positive or negative value judgements are intrinsic to the way we see our world, reports their new study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

We instantly assign "good" or "bad" feelings to even the most everyday of objects, it's just part of the way our visual system works. Visual perception researchers call those feelings an object's "valence."

I'm a total sucker for this kind of work -- uncovering the physical bases for our thoughts and behaviors -- so I'm drawn to this research in its own right. But what makes it truly interesting is that these CMU scientists have decided to take this knowledge to form a startup.

The lab is using funding from the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps, which promotes public-private partnerships for researchers and businesses.

Using functional brain imaging and measurements of visual function, the researchers are figuring out how components of the visual system inform consumer decision-making.

Their startup, called NeonLabs, is starting up by focusing on online video click rates. Team member Sophie Lebrecht explains in a CMU press release:

"Talking with companies such as YouTube and Hulu, we realized that they are looking for ways to keep users on their sites longer by clicking to watch more videos. Thumbnails are a huge problem for any online video publisher, and our research fits perfectly with this problem. Our approach streamlines the process and chooses the screenshot that is the most visually appealing based on science, which will in the end result in more user clicks."

NeonLabs has created an algorithm for consumers' visual preferences. The algorithm goes through all the possible screenshots from an online video and chooses the image that will elicit the most clicks.

The startup has yet to announce any potential company partnerships (or a functional website), though so far has earned $50,000 in funding.

Photo: Terry Presley/Flickr

Graphic: Frontiers in Psychology

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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