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Politics Science

Researcher Measures Brain Reactions To Donald Trump (cnn.com) 290

An anonymous reader writes: Sam Barnett "has been strapping electrode caps on focus group participants and showing them primary season debates," reports CNN, and there's one clear conclusion. "Seeing Trumps face, hearing Trump's voice, lights up the brain." His data captured big surges in neural activity for hot-button topics like immigration, and revealed that while Marco Rubio actually triggered slightly more brain activity among men, Trump clearly produced the highest reactions among women and overall. "The focus group participants might have been excited by Trump. Or they might have been repulsed," reports CNN. "But one thing was for sure: they weren't bored." Barnett has also used electroencephalography (or EEG) to study advertising, and in the future he hopes to also apply it to other complex forms of brain stimulation like movies and even hedge-fund investing.
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Researcher Measures Brain Reactions To Donald Trump

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  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:14PM (#51789399)

    This is your brain on Trump.

    I'm surprised there wasn't more information about your brain on Cruz. Or maybe it scared the researchers a little too much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 )

      This is your brain on Trump.

      I'm surprised there wasn't more information about your brain on Cruz. Or maybe it scared the researchers a little too much.

      The liberals couldn't tell what the heck he was even talking about, and the conservatives fell asleep. So they had to abandon the study. And the Enquirer reported that Cruz cheated on the test 5 times.

  • Actually, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:23PM (#51789443)

    It's politically neutral - just the brain reacting to the orange light.

    • by dwye ( 1127395 )

      How DARE you not make a partisan rant on this, but criticize a stupid experiment saying nothing but Trump is bad if you need to go to sleep soon!

      Take away this person's 5 digit id!

      (exit sarc mode)

  • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:33PM (#51789481)

    "The focus group participants might have been excited by Trump. Or they might have been repulsed,"

    My guess is both. Trump brings out the "Watch the world burn" in all of us. Morbid curiosity is a very strong motivator.

    • Look around you, the world already burns. Meanwhile the Democratic answer to the fire is to toss another old log on and let it burn as it has.

      The Republicans mostly hate Trump because they too don't mind the fire as it is, worming those rich enough to stay outside of it. Trump however is like tossing a mysterious pressurized can into the fire, which may well douse the fire but at least it will make sure everyone feels the burn.

      The Democrats hate Sanders for the same reason but they have him on a much tigh

      • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:59PM (#51789629)

        I don't know if it's fair to compare Trump and Sanders. Sanders has a pretty solid, decades old voting record that gives a pretty clear picture of where he stands. Trump just says whatever random shit pops into his head without regard to the random shit that popped into his head last week. Think what you want about each candidates stance on various issues but, Trumps stance on everything is almost literally, "Fuck it, come on lucky 7". People want him to be president because he's got a pulpit with which to shout their stupidity and insecurity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SuperKendall ( 25149 )

          I don't know if it's fair to compare Trump and Sanders.

          When has it matters what these candidates say or have done? What matters is that Trump and Sanders are hated equally by the political elite. Each would take different paths to whatever goals they have, in either case dismantling some of the establishment along the way. Whichever way the embers scatter simply does not matter as much as the overall effect.

          People want him to be president because he's got a pulpit with which to shout their stupidity and

          • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @09:23PM (#51789741)

            This utter misunderstanding of Trump supporters (and frankly Trump himself) is why people cannot understand how Trump keeps winning and will continue to be so wrong about future success.

            No. I will paraphrase another quote I read here on /. "People are dumb and angry. They don't know why they are angry but, they know that Trump seems to be addressing some form of anger". People who vote for Trump because they think he'll directly change society for the better are idiots. Other people (such as myself) will vote for Trump because we know he will be so fucking disastrous that it may cause real and positive changes to our political system. It's a gamble, to be sure. He could start WW3. As long as he doesn't start WW3, I imagine that his presidency will have a positive legacy on our political system. I just hope we can endure his reign.

            • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @10:02PM (#51789915) Journal

              I will paraphrase another quote I read here on /. "People are dumb and angry. They don't know why they are angry but, they know that Trump seems to be addressing some form of anger".

              Actually, that's close to the mark. The appeal of Donald Trump arises from two factors: (1) he taps into peoples' fears; and (2) he presents himself as the "tough guy" who can eliminate the cause of those fears. In short, he appeals to authoritarians. [vox.com]

              People who vote for Trump because they think he'll directly change society for the better are idiots.

              Really? Because you go on to say:

              Other people (such as myself) will vote for Trump because we know he will be so fucking disastrous that it may cause real and positive changes to our political system.

              Considering how intertwined society and political systems are, I'd say you're contradicting yourself.

              It's a gamble, to be sure. He could start WW3. As long as he doesn't start WW3, I imagine that his presidency will have a positive legacy on our political system. I just hope we can endure his reign.

              So, it sounds like you're an anarchist, and you're willing to gamble with the future of the human species in order to advance your agenda.

              • So, it sounds like you're an anarchist, and you're willing to gamble with the future of the human species in order to advance your agenda.

                I don't know that I have an agenda but, yes, I'm an anarchist, I'm willing to gamble a bit on the future of mankind. Frankly, the status quo doesn't look like it's going to lead us into a bright new future. The D/R establishment has us in the quintessential "slow boil". I think Trump might be terrible enough that we notice that the water is boiling.

        • I don't know if it's fair to compare Trump and Sanders. Sanders has a pretty solid, decades old voting record that gives a pretty clear picture of where he stands.

          Sanders voted to increase H1B visas [senate.gov] at the last round of voting.

          How can you support Sanders when he doesn't care whether you (and in the future, your children) have jobs?

          • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @09:35PM (#51789797)

            I don't think I said I supported Sanders. I just said that he had a consistent and verifiable voting record. I think that's kind of his charm. He may or may not be a crazy old man, he may or may not have voted for/against your pet issue. But, if he says he's for/against something, he tends to back those words up with his votes. I don't mind tipping my hat to someone like that.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zephvark ( 1812804 )

            Sanders voted to increase H1B visas [senate.gov] at the last round of voting.

            How can you support Sanders when he doesn't care whether you (and in the future, your children) have jobs?

            I gather that you believe America will have more jobs if it just stops trading with other nations. And your state will have more jobs if you just stop trading with the rest of America. And your town will have more jobs if you just stop trading with the rest of the state. In fact, perhaps we should entirely do without commerce. That might work.

            • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @10:18PM (#51789983) Homepage Journal

              I gather that you believe America will have more jobs if it just stops trading with other nations. And your state will have more jobs if you just stop trading with the rest of America. And your town will have more jobs if you just stop trading with the rest of the state. In fact, perhaps we should entirely do without commerce. That might work.

              You have a valid point, and one that deserves an answer.

              In past decades, free trade agreements were sold to the American public as a way to become richer. Economists admitted that wages would stagnate, but pointed out that goods and services from abroad would be much cheaper so that overall we would be richer.

              Wages would stagnate, but costs would go down faster than what wages would have risen.

              It's now several decades later, manufacturing has moved to Mexico and China and India, wages have indeed stagnated, and there are Chinese dollar stores everywhere.

              The problem with this model is that the benefits went mostly to the rich, while the middle class was gutted. We can look at the past couple of decades with perfect hindsight and see income inequality skyrocket while employment tanked.

              Keeping jobs local forces the rich to pay more to produce goods, and acts to prevent this inequality. The extra expenses go into the local economy and benefits Americans, instead of benefiting a people in other countries.

              In fact, perhaps we should entirely do without commerce. That might work.

              Maybe we should outsource all our jobs to other countries. That would work just as well.

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              What does H1-B have to do with open trade?
          • by RoLi ( 141856 )

            Self-hating whites think that self-mutilation is the highest form of morality.

        • And calling people who disagree with your politics stupid and insecure is precisely what keeps Trump going. It must be nice to be able to feel such hatred of your fellow Americans on a daily basis. Keeps you warm inside, right?
        • by RoLi ( 141856 )

          Sanders wants to jack up the sanctions against Russia, and he also wants to continue the crazy policy of waging war against BOTH SIDES in Syria.

      • Meanwhile the Democratic answer to the fire is to toss another old log on and let it burn as it has.

        I'm pretty sure the democratic answer is hope and change. Didn't you know that?

      • Look around you, the world already burns

        As I sip my latte the only burning I see is in partisan rhetoric.

  • Best joke ever. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:38PM (#51789495)

    All those anti trump people have yet to offer one single alternative to trump.

    'He's a nazi we hate him!'
    Ok. what's you're suggestion?
    'He's a nazi and we hate him!'
    You're really not helping...

    Bottom line is... Clinton is one evil bitch for sale to the highest bidder. Sanders doesn't stand a chance anymore. And cruz is a grade A jesus freak

    So unless you want 4/8 more years of the same ol shit. Trump is it. And he's going to win.

    Reality tv? fuck that we have reality politics! gonna be entertaining.

    • As long as Clinton doesn't win, I will be happy with the result.

      Trump has ideas I agree with and disagree with, same with Bernie.

      Trump/Bernie 2016? Hah.

      This election has been such a shitshow. It's getting difficult to tell the difference between satire and legitimate news articles.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Personally I think it will be the "same ol shit" with a lot of crazy talk on top.
  • They also determined that exposure to trum causes the same reactions in nematodes.

    Therefore it is easy to extrapolate Trump supporters are on evolutionary and intellectual scale as common nematodes.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @08:49PM (#51789557)

    Instead of reporting actual news, networks like CNN (and I guess Slashdot) report content-free bullshit like this all the time. Someone must have been in danger of actually thinking about how government works, and this story came just in time to prevent that. Thinking averted, personal biases confirmed based on nothing, crisis averted just in time, remember to wash your clothes in Tide or whatever the hell CNN is selling you today.

  • by Bysmuth ( 1362639 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @09:15PM (#51789711)
    I conduct research in a lab that uses EEG to measure a very different kind of processing, so it's possible I'm unaware of the relevant background literature (if indeed there is any), but the most charitable thing I can say is that it is impossible to draw any conclusions at all from the results as they are reported here.

    Barnett talks about "neural engagement", but this is not a technical term. Googling around led to his patent on measuring so-called engagement [google.com]. The relevant part is as follows:

    “For example, if a movie was presented to a group of people, the measure of engagement could show the level of engagement the group (or a subset of the group) displayed in response to different scenes in the movie; the measure of engagement could also show how engaging the movie was overall. The method 100 preferably performs cross-brain correlations of neural data, calculated across pairs (a measure of neural similarity), as input for the measure of engagement. The method 100 additionally may function to provide a measure of engagement across small and precise time ranges. Understanding that one characteristic of engaging content is its ability to generate similar neural responses in different individuals, this preferably enables the method 100 to operate without the need to specify a model for the neural processes of engagement.”

    So as far as I can tell, the fact that Trump generated higher levels of engagement means the EEG responses he elicited in viewers were more correlated with each other than were the EEG responses elicited by other candidates. This could potentially be interesting, but not without a process model explaining why. Even taking this associative, non-experimental method at face value, here's a plausible hypothesis that would render this result totally uninteresting: Everyone has seen and heard Donald Trump a lot. The same cannot be said for, say, John Kasich. It seems reasonable to me that frequent stimuli would be more likely to elicit common responses.

    Maybe this hypothesis is correct; maybe it's not. The point is that without doing the hard work of showing they understand what their analytic technique measures, the results are totally uninterpretable. You can't even say that "Viewers weren't bored" without knowing what the correlations between the EEG responses of bored people would generate!

    tl;dr: A poorly-designed and as-yet unpublished EEG study leads to an uninterpretable result that generated news coverage because readers like it when their latent beliefs are covered with a veneer of scientific acceptability.

    (Professional quibble with the write-up: The term "lights up the brain" is neuroscientific slang used exclusively with methods like fMRI that tell you which regions of the brain are active. I know no neuroscientist who would say the brain is "lit up" based on an EEG reading.)
    • This is what I was curious about. All it seems to imply to me (Me, being completely ignorant of this kind of stuff) is that people tend to pay attention to him, which was already obvious.

      Seems like a technical way to measure if somebody is bored and not paying attention vs paying attention and excited or interested, whether it is with glee or disgust.

    • ...and in related news, a researcher notices people's brains light up when they watch porn, Ren N Stimpy cartoons, cat videos, houseplants, and videos of focus group participants with electrode caps strapped onto their heads. ...further research found strapping electrode caps on focus group participants makes their brains light up, because focus group participants like having electrode caps strapped onto their heads.

      Researcher says that if anyone is interested in having the brains of focus groups light up f

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Sunday March 27, 2016 @11:06PM (#51790171)

    CNN isn't worth your time. All they talk about is garbage like this and who said the most ridiculous thing today. CNN is willing and able to bait and troll the public with nonsensical questions like did Trump sieg heil before cutting to commercial.

    Is Anderson cooper a space alien? Is Jake Taper a Russian spy? Does Wolf Blitzer rape goats? All this and more after these messages.

    Apparently they can't be bothered to do any serious investigative journalism on any of the candidates running for office, provide any context or insights into political issues or even bother to explore candidates positions. It is 24x7 talking points and low information bullshit spewed from CNN's cast of lazy idiots.

  • EEG indistinguishable from brain death.

  • Didn't we learn our lesson last cycle? Or the two before that?

    Look, there's only three factions that read this site. Socialists, Libertarians, and people that believe their pets talk to them telepathically.
    Why bother discussing anything political here?

    This never ends well.

  • ... why didn't they monitor the gag reflex?

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