Research: Your Unconscious Mind Made You Click the Viral Puppy Video

New research from Carnegie Mellon team could be a game-changing consumer marketing tool.

Illustration by Saad Faruque on Flickr

CMU Researchers Make Connection Between Sight and Preference

Humans like to think it is and will always be impossible to compute an emotion or to scientifically analyze what makes them tick. Pittsburgh researchers appear to be inching closer to proving this notion false.

In the eyes of the card counter, each playing card on the blackjack table has either positive or negative value with regard to the player’s chances of beating the dealer, leaving the casino with fat pockets and laughing all the way to the bank. After an intensive, $50,000 study, Carnegie Mellon University brain researchers claim that “valences” (the mind’s unconscious positive or negative perception of everything) are responsible for whether or not certain objects or images strike our interest. The mind, then, is systematized to gather and group these vibes, which, in turn, account for its net valence level (mood).

But the CMU dream team — entrepreneurs and a professor of cognitive neuroscience, among others — is making headway in fields other than neurology. Often, there is a motive behind scientific research that has little or nothing to do with merely informing the general public of a phenomenon. In this case, the researchers’ fascination with involuntary brain activity has a very practical business application: consumer marketing.

The researchers have spoken with companies like YouTube, whose day-to-day goal is to ensure viewers remain on its website for as long as possible; to do so takes an insightful marketer, one who understands which thumbnail images are likely to garner more clicks. Perhaps as cutting-edge psychological research surfaces, so will a new age of scientifically informed consumer marketing.

—Charlie Sutherland, PM Intern

Chatham Grad Student Partners With Carnegie Library to Grow Gardening in Pittsburgh

Living in an urban area, especially one as diverse as Pittsburgh, means people have no shortage of outlets to explore their interests. Virtually everything from sports to theater to fine dining can be explored within the city limits. Now, a Chatham University graduate student is looking to bring a new and unlikely activity to the forefront of urban entertainment: Gardening.

Amanda West, a Chatham food studies graduate student, is partnering with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) in an effort called the Pittsburgh Seed and Story Library. Through the project, green-thumbed library guests will have access to a seed library, specially adapted to flourish in our region. The library will allow gardeners, both veteran and novice, to "check out" the seeds of their choice to take home and plant.

Once the seeds have been planted, the hope is that they will grow past the harvesting stage to a point where they can be collected and eventually returned to the library for others to check out and continue the cycle.

“When seeds are grounded in the same area year after year, they develop stronger resistance to disease and fluctuations in the weather,” says West. “Many modern seeds are bred for things like hard skins for transportation purposes or for longer shelf life, while heirlooms have been carefully bred throughout the years for things like beauty and flavor.”

In addition to lending out seeds a la library books, the program will also provide a variety of other services, such as seed-saving classes and opportunities in which to discuss various gardening issues. Seeds are currently available for check out at CLP-Lawrenceville.

—Rob McCoy, PM Assistant Designer

Duquesne and Robert Morris Among Top 10 Online Degree Programs

One advantage of online education is that you can study at schools across the globe. But Pittsburgh students can also have the confidence of enrolling in a quality online program that is based close to home: Four Pennsylvania universities have been named to the top 10 of SuperScholar's 25 Best Online Colleges and Universities of 2012.

Duquesne University (No. 2) and Robert Morris University (No. 10) made the list, as did Penn State World Campus (No. 3) and Drexel University (No. 5). SuperScholar, a website specializing in information about online education, says the rankings are based on "perceived market credibility and prestige, academic quality, support for students and student satisfaction."

Duquesne has five online bachelor's degree programs and four master's programs, while Robert Morris offers 20 online degree programs and two online certificate programs. Nearby campuses make it easy to meet with a professor when necessary or grab a sweatshirt from the bookstore.

—James Santelli, PM Editorial Intern

Categories: Great Minds