A ticket for your thoughts: Method for predicting content recall and sales using neural similarity of moviegoers

Samuel B. Barnett, Moran Cerf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Skilled advertisers often cause a diverse set of consumers to feel similarly about their product. We present a method for measuring neural data to assess the degree of similarity between multiple brains experiencing the same advertisements, and we demonstrate that this similarity can predict important marketing outcomes. Since neural data can be sampled continuously throughout an experience and without effort and conscious reporting biases, our method offers a useful complement to measures requiring active evaluations, such as subjective ratings and willingnessto- pay (WTP) scores. As a case study, we use portable electroencephalography (EEG) systems to record the brain activity of 58 moviegoers in a commercial theater and then calculate the relative levels of neural similarity, cross-brain correlation (CBC), throughout 13 movie trailers. Our initial evidence suggests that CBC predicts future free recall of the movie trailers and population-level sales of the corresponding movies. Additionally, since there are potentially other (i.e., non-neural) sources of physiological similarity (e.g., basic arousal), we illustrate how to use other passive measures, such as cardiac, respiratory, and electrodermal activity levels, to reject alternative hypotheses. Moreover, we show how CBC can be used in conjunction with empirical content analysis (e.g., levels of visual and semantic complexity).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-181
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Consumer memory
  • Cross-brain correlation (CBC)
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Field experiments
  • Neural similarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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