Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Memory-Effects of Eye Movement.

The folks at Neuromarketing brought to my attention a fascinating study about the effects of horizontal eye-movement on memory. The study found that students, who had been stimulated to move their eyes horizontally for 30 seconds, on average remember 10% more words from a list than people that had been treated to vertical eye movements.
Even though the study on tested short-term data recall, it made me think a lot about the potential implications of this. Roger Dooley pointed out possible web banners or TV commercials. My first thoughts involved billboards, where the main figure of attention moves horizontally in a certain context, but i suppose that can just be seen as a low-tech version of his web-banner idea. An alternative would be to have the whole medium move back and forth, instead of just one component of the advertisement. However, I can see how that would be annoying for people to watch. Even so, the challenge remains, how to keep the consumer focused enough to make sure the mechanism takes effect in the first place.
If anyone reading this has any other practical implications that come to mind, I would love to heard about it.


Mark E said...

Interesting stuff...except for the fact that things don't quite work the way that the neuromarketers suggest.

Lots of behavioural scientists are challenging some of our big assumptions about behaviour is shaped.

Memory is much less important than we'd like to think. Indeed, all the best neuroscientists are clear that memory is at best deeply unreliable (and changes each time we recall). It is far from the polaroid-photography that our consciousness insists it is.

Thinking is much less important than our minds tell us (we mostly do stuff and make sense of it later) and individual agency is not at all as important as our own (private) experience of our lives tells us - mostly we do what we do because of other people (see for example Alex Huntley or Duncan Watts' modelling of behavioural cascades through populations which suggest that copying not thinking or volition is the key mechanic), even though (as Milgram and Zimbardo point out) our minds choose to tell us otherwise.

Equally, Ben Libet shows repeatedly how our minds retrofit our sense of deciding to appear to happen before behaviour is triggered (rather than after which is really when it does).

Oh, and the neuroscience is hopelessly over-interpreted - as the great British neuroscientist puts it: we are not yet at the end of the beginning in understanding the brain, let alone the beginning of the end. And yet the vendors of such techniques would like to give us the impression of much greater certainty.

The question you ought to be asking of these guys and their techniques is this: why do I want this stuff to be true?

Beware Greeks bearing gifts, my friend.

Nobo said...

Thanks for a great comment. You have given me quite a lot of names to read up on. I think the whole field is fascinating, but I don’t really know all that much about it, so I’m always happy for some tips and information.