Psychological Processes and Advertising Effects: Theory, Research, and Applications

By Linda F. Alwitt; Andrew A. Mitchell | Go to book overview

9
EEG Activity Reflects the Content of Commercials

Linda F. Alwitt Leo Burnett U.S.A. Chicago, Illinois


INTRODUCTION

In recent years there has been an increased interest in electroencephalographic (EEG) measurement of brain activity as a way to learn more about how advertising works. There have been several studies of EEGs of people watching television commercials (for reviews see Stewart & Furse, 1983 or Ray & Olson, 1983). Many of the studies have been concerned with issues such as EEG differences in hemispheric laterality between print advertising and television commercials. The question of what aspects of commercial content are reflected by EEGs has not been addressed.

The purpose of the current analysis is to search for events in commercials that may trigger EEG responses of a person viewing those commercials. This analysis can be useful for two areas of concern about EEG research on advertising. First, it can answer some technical questions about how EEGs can be used to examine reactions to an on-going real-life event like a television commercial. It can guide us to the brain sites and frequency bands most likely to reflect responses related to the content of television commercials. Second, it can help us learn more about how advertising works. The specific aspects of a commercial that are reflected by EEG measures of the brain's activity may suggest to us what parts of a commercial are relevant, what parts are attended to, what parts mean something to the viewer.

The data for this analysis are from a Marketing Science Institute sponsored pilot study of EEG responses to television commercials, which was designed by Jerry Olson and Bill Ray of Pennsylvania State University with input from several sponsoring companies. Olson and Ray recorded EEGs of thirty

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