Neuroscience and market research: which methods are best?

In the most recent IMJR, Jane Leighton from Neilsen describes a 2016 study which for the first time evaluates the respective merits of neuro tools.

In a sentence:

  • EEG has the best predictive validity;
  • Facial coding isn't worth bothering with;
  • Like traditional methods, triangulation increases explanatory power.


For anyone who has used Eyetracking, GSR, EEG or Facial Coding this is intuitive.

EEG tends to be applied by trained specialists in a lab setting and a controlled environment. The data tends not to be interpreted by non-specialists.

Facial coding – even if you accept the “science” of micro expressions (I do not) – is often applied via webcam in home. The ultimate uncontrolled setting. The data is often interpreted by generalists.

The 2016 study is a comprehensive controlled test, testing 60 ads in 20 product categories, with over 900+ neuro participants and 22,000+ survey respondents. Their dependent variable - sales outcome – is not fully elucidated. I’m assuming this relates to an uplift in purchase intent following exposure.


My view? Adding neuro methods is about intelligent triangulation:

  • In advertising pre-testing EEG has predictive validity. Long-term memory encoding is the most effective dependent variable;
  • In retail, applied in a ‘blind’ shopping trip eyetracking adds most value in understanding real shopping behaviour and evaluating the impact of instore influences;
  • I wouldn’t bother with any of the other methods.

Simon Shaw, Director

Katie Grundy