SPR in The Big Easy

by theaudioprof on September 23, 2012

I’m writing this while sitting in the Indy Airport waiting for the shuttle to take me back to Bloomington and my family. There is a distinct feeling of Fall in the air that I don’t remember feeling when I left on Tuesday. And there certainly wasn’t a feeling of Fall in New Orleans, the site of this years society for psychophysiological research conference.

Ask many of the faculty and grad students that work in the ICR to name the conference they would choose if they were limited to one a year, an I think it might be this one. I know that would be my answer. I always get food ideas for new ways to look at my own work (or the work of my students) from the fresh scientific perspectives on display by the keynote speakers , the panel symposia and the comments that I get by people dropping by my poster presentations of my own work.

This year the ICR attendance (current and alum) was lower than many years. But that meant I was able to spend good times with Rachel Bailey, Justin Keene, Justin’s friend and new South Dakota faculty member Brandon Nutting.  There was even brief sighting of a Lab Rat alumnae Dr. Satoko Kurita!

The work I presented was a continuation of the investigations of whether the Orienting Response that occurs when listeners are exposed to changes in the audio stream habituates after several repetitions. Think of it this way:  We know from past studies that when a radio station plays a jingle between songs to identify themselves that listeners automatically pay a little more attention to the broadcast. But what happens after a listener has had the radio on for an extended period of time?  Does the second jingle you hear automatically capture attention?  What about the third?  By measuring how the listeners’ bodies reacted while they listened, we could actually see that their heart rate responses reacted remarkably different  with each successive jingle that was played. So look at this picture.

When people have an orienting response, that is, when they automatically pay attention to something new coming into their environment, their heart rate slows down over the course of about 6 seconds.   The picture above is similar to what we get when we average the heart rate reaction after 3 different jingles listeners heard over the course of a 40-minute radio broadcast.   See the nice deceleration?  That might lead a Program Director to say “Great!  The jingle captures their attention and the will hear what station they are listening to.”

Your Automatic Response to Jingles Changes

But now, look at how the heart reacts differently depending on whether you are listening to the first, or second, or third jingle during your time with the station. (Click on the picture…it will be clearer up close!).  By the time they hear the third one their heart ACCELERATES!  This type of response is not an orienting response but something known as the Defensive Response. This is what your heart does when it is trying to block out information from further processing!  Not a good sign if you are trying to get listeners to not only know that they are listening to your station but wanting them to feel positive about the station itself.

Now, realize that in this experiment the actual jingles played were rotated across different listeners. So it’s not the case that there was one particular jingle that everyone hated. What they were defensive toward was the third time the jingle was played.  The conclusion is that jingles might not always help you so much as get your listeners to feel like your station is interrupting their music mix to do a little chest-thumping…

Another things that makes all of this even more difficult is that a Program Director has not real way of knowing…like we did in this experimental protocol…how long an individual listener has been listening to a broadcast.  We don’t know when they tune in to the normal broadcast.  Of course, it is technologically possible to know when people who are listening via streaming tune in.  And we know what the likely listening pattern of a podcast listener will be.  There are immediate ways to apply the results of this work to those types of audio productions.  Limiting the use of repetitive jingles would be a good recommendation.


Fans Process Sports News Differently

by theaudioprof on September 2, 2012


The college football season started this weekend, here in Bloomington the Hoosiers hosted in-state Indiana State…and we barely held on to beat them.  In fact, fans of IU are thankful for the Minnesota Golden Gophers because they are preventing us from being the predicted cellar-dwellers of the Big 10.

And then there was the Big 10 vs SEC “showdown” Saturday night between Alabama and Michigan. The Crimson Tide handled Big Blue easily and even though this game was held in Dallas, it reminded me of my time in Tuscaloosa where I got to see the huge event that is Alabama football.

And, it reminded me of an experiment that I conducted when I was down there during a time when their football program was going through a much more turbulent time. In the course of about a year the school had a coach leave their program for another one (literally catching a plane in the middle of the night, if I remember right!) another one be hired, scandalized and fired, and a third one hired as “the savior of the program”.
We brought college students into the lab and had them complete a questionnaire that determined how big a fan they were of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Then, we divided the group into High Fans and Low Fans and played them segments of the press conferences held during this coaching circus. And we measured physiology while they watched. Guess what?!?
The people who were the really passionate fans of the team had more activated frown muscles while they watched the press conference of the coach who “betrayed the team” compared to moderate fans (see below).  Also, all fans paid more attention to the betraying coach’s first utterances in the press conferences compared to the “savior coach.”
This study has recently been accepted by the International Journal of Sports Communication.

Frown Muscles more Activated in Response to Betraying Coach


Time Warner Thought-Leadership Summit

by theaudioprof on August 20, 2012

NYC Skyline from Central Park


Another semester begins…and although I’m mostly ready I’m still looking back at some of the wonderful opportunities I had this summer.  One of them was a fun and informative two days spent in New York City at the Time Warner Center for the TW Thought Leadership Summit.  Organized by the Broadcast Education Association, this event brought together about 50 professors from across the country at the new Time Warner Media Lab, a new audience research facility that is quite impressive.

Sample psychophysiology (biometric) data in the TW Media Lab

Mock Checkout where consumer choice of Time Inc titles are observed

Over two days we got a chance to hear from the top executives from TW about ways they conduct and utilize audience research in their everyday and long-range decision making.

A Control Room provides video monitoring of the facility

From the very first presentation I was writing down furiously information to share with my classes.  My thanks to BEA, Time Warner–especially Bruce K. Rosenblum and Jack Wakshlag from Turner (and formerly an IU Telecomm Professor), and my academic colleagues for making a terrific memory.

The faculty class of the TW Thought Leadership Summit