Infographic: Measurements that Predict People’s Behavior

Changes in blood levels of oxytocin and adrenocorticotropic hormone and patterns of neural activity predict how much money people will donate to a cause with high accuracy.

Paul J. Zak
Oct 1, 2020

Immersion is a neurological state of attention and emotional resonance that predicts what people will do after an experience, often with 80 percent or greater accuracy. We identified it by comparing neural activity in people who took an action after an experience versus those who did not.

Participants viewed a video about “Big” Ben Bowen, who suffered from an aggressive brain tumor at age two and was featured in a fundraising campaign from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As participants watched Bowen’s story, we measured attention and emotional responses using brain activity as measured by electroencephalography (EEG) as well as multiple signals from the peripheral nervous system. We also drew blood from participants before and after they viewed the video to measure changes in oxytocin, cortisol, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). One-half of the hundreds of people who viewed the video donated money to St. Jude. Our analysis predicted who would donate with 82 percent accuracy.

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