Is There a Scientific Explanation for Justin Bieber?

For more than a century, social scientists have attempted to create a model that will accurately predict what images, songs, or memes will become popular. Now Gregory Berns, a neuroeconomist at Emory University, thinks that certain fMRI signatures in the brains of teenagers are reliable indicators of future popularity:

The divination is performed with the help of a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, or fMRI, scanning the brains of juveniles while they listen to demo records. Emory University plumped the findings with the bold headline, "Teen brain data predicts pop song success."

If true, this would be the equivalent of having tomorrow's stock pages today. Helpful, that. Determine what tickles the pleasure points of the adolescent id and you ought to be able to plot more efficiently how to separate teens from their money.


Link -via Althouse | Photo by Flickr user jake.auzzie used under Creative Commons license

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New method but otherwise nothing new. Read about this long ago. There must be better articles to be found about this but 1 minute with Google turned up this:

Scientists study 'DNA of perfect pop song' (
CNN 2010)

"Their findings so far suggest that stickiness results from a particular balance of certain pitch intervals and particular rhythmic structures. The formula can currently predict whether a tune is likely to be an earworm with approximately 75 percent success"

Not too long until computer programs are writing the songs to top the charts, if we are not already there.
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Better yet, you can set industry trends by designing your content specifically according to the brain's reaction. You can use brain imaging to undermine someone's conscious thinking process if you want. The behaviorists hit on some poignant facts about psychology which turned out to be pretty much the way the brain works. PR firms and designers are already using this knowledge. The music industry is already using formulas for cranking out clones. (A song is not likely to gain popularity if it is longer than 3:30 minutes. If it doesn't get to the "hook" within 15 seconds. If it doesn't have a "hook" (a catchy phrase repeated). If the lyrics are subversive or the performers are not fashionable.) Boy bands, girl bands, teen pop stars. Corporations using kids to milk their parents for profit.
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