Alexander Genevsky from RSM Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, along with colleagues from Stanford University and the University of Michigan, identified that heightened activity in certain parts of the brain allowed them to predict accurately which crowdfunding projects would be successful.

The research team measured test participants’ neural activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while they performed a task selecting which documentary films to support on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

Participants were then asked questions about what they thought of particular pitches.

The team then tracked which of the projects achieved funding on Kickstarter and evaluated both the fMRI scans and responses to the questionnaires. They found that greater activity during the decision task in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens predicted the success of a project being funded more reliably than the questionnaires.
In other words, the team discovered that this technique could predict the success of a project at the market level, as opposed to simply on an individual level. Testing just a small number of individuals could predict whether a project would achieve widespread support.

Genevsky says: “What’s really interesting is that while brain activity in regions associated with positive affect and balancing benefits and costs predicted individual choices to fund, only activity in the region associated with positive affect forecasted funding outcomes on the internet amongst the market as a whole. Surprisingly, none of the other variables we measured did this, even upon replication of the study.

“This is one of the first studies to directly compare the power of choice against brain activity in forecasting aggregate outcomes, and to demonstrate that brain activity can have a predictive edge in certain circumstances.

“Essentially, in this case the brain appears able to predict behaviour better than the information we are able or willing to report ourselves”