The September issue of Fast Company has an article titled, “They Have Hacked Your Brain“. “They” refers not to aliens but to companies hoping to design products, services, and/or marketing materials that will grab your attention and lead you to buy- by studying your brain. NeuroFocus is providing an alternative to focus groups using its Mynd device to measure the brain’s reaction to different stimuli. In other words- this is an example of applied neuroscience. Some convincing evidence is presented on the effectiveness of this methodology.
One paragraph, however, caught my attention for a different reason. It described a test NeuroFocus did for Intel. Using a small sample of men and women in Berkeley and a mid-sized town in China, EEGs of subjects were measured as they viewed words that flashed on a screen at intervals of half a second. As described in the article, one of the findings was (this is a direct quote):
Interestingly, women in the U.S. and in China had virtually the same response post-advertisements, as did American men and Chinese men. The differences were in the genders; on both sides of the pond, men and women had strikingly different reactions. “Achieve” prompted the most intense reaction among women, while men gravitated toward “opportunity.”
What intrigued me about this statement? First, many women truly believe that business is a meritocracy – work hard, achieve great results and you get promoted. In reality, success is a function of doing good work and self-promoting, working the system, and using one’s networks. Hence- how interesting that both the American and Chinese women had intense reactions (as measured by their EEGs) to the word “achieve”.
Second, both the American and Chinese men reacted strongly to the work “opportunity.” Perhaps seeing more potential for an upside- as is implied by “opportunity”- supports men’s tendency to be more willing to take risks than many women. The study that was cited did not include the word “challenge”. I wonder what response that would have been elicited from both the men and the women. But then- neither the test nor the article was about gender so -why would that have been added?
Just consider it food for thought.