Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

This Is Your Brain Picking Magazine Covers

Sure, porting your ink-and-paper magazine to an iPad sounds like a high-tech operation, but if you want to see what cutting-edge technology can really do for a magazine, check out the cover of this week’s New Scientist. Because the magazine’s editors picked that cover after reading your mind.

More specifically, the minds of 19 right-handed men.

The British magazine chose its newest cover design after testing it and two other options with the help of NeuroFocus, a “neuromarketing” company that’s supposed to figure out how the brain responds to different pitches.

NeuroFocus strapped the 19 test subjects to an electroencephalograph machine and recorded their reactions. The design below scored highest, because it supposedly made testers most receptive to the concepts “eye-catching,” “intriguing” and “must-buy”:

Why right-handed men? Sample size, says the New York Times, which has the short version of the story. For the longer version, consult New Scientist itself, which explains that this sort of testing is increasingly common–not for magazines but for most consumer products. Next up, perhaps–your congressman:

Giants such as Procter & Gamble (PG) and the Campbell Soup Company (CPB), are increasingly adding neuromarketing to their market-research armoury. According to Darren Bridger, NeuroFocus Europe’s director of lab operations, just about every conceivable item is now being road-tested on human brains: adverts, movie trailers, snacks, gadgets, packaging, drinks, car designs and early-stage concepts for new products. Berns even suggests that it won’t be long before neuromarketing is applied to the ultimate sales pitch: political candidates.

Any relevant clip I’d run here–”Clockwork Orange,” “Parallax View,” “Manchurian Candidate,” etc.–is too creepy for a Monday morning. So we’re going with this all-purpose one:


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus