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Carnegie Mellon Brain Research Shows Visual Perception System Unconsciously Affects Our Preferences

PITTSBURGH May 23, 2012

Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition Frontiers in Psychology

The findings offer important insights into consumer behavior in ways that traditional consumer marketing focus groups cannot address. For example, asking individuals to react to package designs, ads or logos is simply ineffective. Instead, companies can use this type of brain science to more effectively assess how unconscious visual valence perception contributes to consumer behavior.

National Science Foundation Innovation Corps

Michael J. Tarr

Tarr added that the NSF I-Corps program has been instrumental in helping the neonlabs’ team take this basic idea and teaching them how to turn it into a viable company. "The I-Corps program gave us unprecedented access to highly successful, experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who provided incredibly valuable feedback throughout the development process," he said.

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"Everything you see, you automatically dislike or like, prefer or don’t prefer, in part, because of valence perception," said Lebrecht, lead author of the study and the entrepreneurial lead for the I-Corps grant. "Valence links what we see in the world to how we make decisions."

Lebrecht continued, "Talking with companies such as YouTube and Hulu, we realized that they are looking for ways to keep users on their sites longer by clicking to watch more videos. Thumbnails are a huge problem for any online video publisher, and our research fits perfectly with this problem. Our approach streamlines the process and chooses the screenshot that is the most visually appealing based on science, which will in the end result in more user clicks."

May 23 Palo Alto, Calif.

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"CMU has been an amazing place to build neonlabs," Lebrecht said. "There’s a great intellectual community and facilities here as well as people unbelievably experienced in tech transfer and startups who have been so incredibly generous with their time."        

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