Brain Tests Can Help Predict Show’s Popularity

October 24, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. hypothesize /haɪˈpɒθ əˌsaɪz, hɪ-/ (v.) – to make an educated guess
Example: The researchers will conduct a study to see if what they hypothesized is correct.

2. premiere /prɪˈmɪər/ (n.) – the first release or airing of a show or its sequel
Example: The new season premiere of the comedy show will be aired next Saturday.

3. evidence /ˈɛv ɪ dəns/ (v.) – to support by a proof or fact
Example: His accusations were true as evidenced by the CCTV footage.

4. airing /ˈɛər ɪŋ/ (n.) – refers to the broadcast or showing of a program
Example: The airing of my favorite show was delayed due to the breaking news.

5. forecast /ˈfɔrˌkæst/ (n.) – a prediction for an outcome
Example: The home team will lose according to most analysts’ forecast.


Read the text below.
A new study suggests that the popularity of a new show or advertisement can be predicted by monitoring the brain activity of a selected audience.

Jacek Dmochowski [YAHT-sek mo-KOHS-ki] of Stanford University led a team of researchers in conducting the study. They hypothesized that brain signals can determine how viewers react to a program.

The team gathered 16 participants aged 19 to 32 for the experiment. The volunteers watched the 2010 premiere of The Walking Dead, a horror drama TV series. They also watched a set of advertisements shown in the 2012 and 2013 Super Bowl—the National Football League championship game.

The participants wore electroencephalography [ih-lek-troh-en-sef-uh-LOG-ruh-fee] sensors while watching so their neural activities could be measured. They also underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging, which mapped brain activity by monitoring the brain’s blood flow.

After the tests, researchers found that the participants were deeply focused on the videos as evidenced by the brain test results. Consequently, the TV show got high public ratings in its actual airing. But in the Super Bowl ads, the researchers noticed that the samples’ brain activities were more similar on the ads with the highest ratings. Dmochowski concluded that higher neural similarity among the participants means the video is more appealing.

Usually, companies form a panel to give feedback on an upcoming ad or show. However, the accuracy of the comments can be affected by different factors like poor verbal skills and group pressure. Thus, Dmochowski hopes advertising firms will include brain scanning technology in the future to achieve more realistic forecasts.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the results of the experiment? Why or why not?
·         How else can this study be useful to producers of TV shows and advertisements?

Discussion B

·         Why are ratings important for a show or an ad?
·         If you were a producer, what kind of show would you make and why?

October 24, 2014