Examining neural activity from a few individuals viewing popular media can predict population-level behavioural preferences in thousands of individuals, reports a study in Nature Communications. These findings demonstrate novel methods for predicting behaviour in large human populations.
Predicting human behaviour is utilised for forecasting election results, anticipating the reception of upcoming films and foreseeing the effects of changes to laws and policies. Although previous brain imaging studies have shown that it is possible to predict the future behaviour of an individual, it was not possible to extrapolate the results to predict the behaviour of large groups.
Jacek Dmochowski and colleagues use electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor and image the brain activity of up to 16 individuals while viewing popular, previously-broadcast television content. They find that this information allows them to accurately predict behavioural expressions of interest and preference among thousands of individuals, whose responses are characterised by social media activity and audience ratings.
Researchers expect these findings to have important implications for ways in which education, marketing and media are targeted towards specific audiences. They are uncertain, however, about the identity of the stimuli that are predictive of the large population data.