Keunyoung Oh, Buffalo State associate professor of fashion and textile technology (FTT), knows that consumer surveys don’t tell the whole truth. In fact, sometimes, there is little truth to them at all.

In the early ‘00s, Oh worked for a multinational marketing research company in Seoul, South Korea. Over five years, she administered thousands of surveys to gauge consumer perceptions and shopping behavior. She discovered that responses often didn’t match purchasing behavior.

“Sometimes consumers’ choices are irrational and they don’t want to admit that. People react by instinct and that instinct is often suppressed from their conscious mind,” Oh said. “It’s their emotions that inform their shopping behavior.”

Oh recently found a way to literally tap into consumer’s emotions — through electroencephalography (EEG). By slipping a cap filled with electro-gel over participants’ heads and connecting it to a piece of equipment called the NeXus 32 system, Oh can read their brainwaves. The NeXus 32 records physiological and neurological responses to stimuli.

While her subjects are viewing various product websites, Oh is able to monitor what draws their attention to particular products and what their level of emotional engagement is.

“This measures emotions within 1,000 milliseconds from the onset of the visual stimuli,” she said. “Most people don’t remember the exact emotions they felt; it is too quick. Even if the emotions don’t connect with the conscious process, they do affect behavior.” EEG technology is often used to diagnose such conditions as attention deficit disorder, insomnia and depression through neurofeeback therapy. Oh said that this equipment provides an advanced version of neurophysiological responses and is part of a new a field called neuromarketing.

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