Naturalistic stimuli evoke highly reliable brain activity across viewers. Here we record neural activity from a group of naive individuals while viewing popular, previously-broadcast television content for which the broad audience response is characterized by social media activity and audience ratings. We find that the level of inter-subject correlation in the evoked encephalographic responses predicts the expressions of interest and preference among thousands. Surprisingly, ratings of the larger audience are predicted with greater accuracy than those of the individuals from whom the neural data is obtained. An additional functional magnetic resonance imaging study employing a separate sample of subjects shows that the level of neural reliability evoked by these stimuli covaries with the amount of blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) activation in higher-order visual and auditory regions. Our findings suggest that stimuli which we judge favourably may be those to which our brains respond in a stereotypical manner shared by our peers.
Dmochowski, J. P., Bezdek, M. A., Abelson, B. P., Johnson, J. S., Schumacher, E. H. & Parra, L. C. (2014). Audience preferences are predicted by temporal reliability of neural processing. Nature Communications, 5, 4567. doi:10.1038/ncomms5567.