Deloitte Neuroscience Institute


#DeloitteInnovation: Neuroscience Institute

Neuroscience revolutionizes business decisions by drawing on unconscious information

The Deloitte Neuroscience Institute offers a range of methodological approaches that are targeted at gaining insight into business-relevant questions that are largely determined by unconscious perception and decision-making, and thereby provides concise, in-depth recommendations for a variety of questions.

It is tempting to think of humans as consistently rational agents who can precisely report their feelings, thoughts and intentions. Accurately predicting financial markets, acceptance of a novel product or work promotions would be greatly simplified if this was the case. However, experience teaches us that reality is different and we can justifiably ask why.

Simply speaking, the brain follows three unconscious steps before we even become aware of it: The brain perceives information from the environment, determines meaning and value and compares them to expectations, and finally makes a decision on how to respond or act. With neuroscience having become the fastest growing discipline in the history of scientific endeavor, brain activity can now be visualized and linked to underlying thinking processes.

History of neuroscience

Towards the end of the 19th century scientists became increasingly curious to understand how the brain works. By creating detailed depictions of the anatomical structure, an insightful observation about the brain was made: brain cells – commonly referred to as neurons – encode information by means of their electrical activity. For our understanding we might draw on a comparison with a computer that encodes information bit by bit using transistors. Remarkably, though, this scientific finding was made before computers even existed.
This electrical activity of the human brain was first measured in the early 20th century using an electroencephalogram (EEG) – an arrangement of electrodes placed over the scalp. Fluctuations in this activity have then been linked to various cognitive processes such as visual perception, attention, and memory and provide insight into largely unconscious processes. More recent technological advancements produce high-resolution maps of the brain’s responses to its environment, for example using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Two decades ago, neuroscience started investigating business-relevant questions by forming links with other disciplines such as economics and behavioral science. Using a combination of scientific methods has provided us with the possibility to measure unconscious information. Now a revolution is underway where neither auctions nor questionnaires are required to estimate a customer’s willingness-to-pay, but where measuring brain activity related to product presentations provides more accurate insight. Shoppers will no longer have to sift through their memories to arduously explain their shopping experience, but their focus and motivations are monitored in real-time whilst in the store. Banks will not realize that trading a popular asset was too risky when the bubble bursts, but will understand whether their traders’ decisions are determined by facts or peer-pressure. Employees will no longer deem e-learnings boring and pointless, but will see that they are attention-catching, memorable and helpful.

The DNI team is prepared to investigate your industry-specific questions that can only be answered by leveraging scientific methods. To obtain valid and sound results the DNI employs neuroscientists and psychologists who are trained in experimental design, data acquisition and interpretation. The team is led by strategy consultants with yearlong experience in consulting and industry expertise to translate neuroscientific insight into actionable recommendations.

The Deloitte Neuroscience Institute methods include:
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Measures electrical brain activity with highly temporal resolution relating to perception and thinking processes
  • Eye tracking: Tracks eye movements and gaze in real-time to monitor visual focus (mobile and fixed-to-screen versions)
  • Facial coding: Measures facial expressions to identify emotional reactions
  • Galvanic skin response (GSR): Measures skin conductance to monitor physiological arousal in response to external events

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