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Do facial EMG research tools work?

News, 21 April 2017
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NEW YORK: Electrophysiological research methods can help marketers more deeply understand consumers' emotional responses but will require further study going forwards, a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

In How Reliable Are 'State-of-the-Art' Facial EMG Processing Methods? Guidelines for Improving the Assessment of Emotional Valence in Advertising Research, Mathieu M. P. Lajante (Laval University, Québec City), Olivier Droulers (University of Rennes 1), and David Amarantini (Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse) suggest measurement reliability and validity depend on the exact procedures used during facial electromyography (FEMG) recording, signal processing, and phase responses.

"Advertising researchers have highlighted how electrophysiological methods can improve the understanding of consumers' emotional experience, yet few published methodological studies draw the necessary guidelines to obtain reliable results," they assert.

"From a managerial perspective," the authors continue in a paper published as part of a What We Know About Television Advertising Now section of the latest issue of JAR, "FEMG and subjective feelings measurement should be considered as a relevant combination of methods for evaluating television-advertising effectiveness.

"Indeed, the results of the comparison study show that the motor-expressive component of emotion measured by FEMG is a significant antecedent of consumers' subjective feelings."

From a practical marketing-research perspective, the study's findings are "consistent with the view that an emotion is a dynamic and multi-componential process that is assimilated and integrated in the central nervous system at a conscious level."

And tracking responses using FEMG allows for different forms of understanding than can be achieved by surveys and other self-reported research techniques, which are vulnerable to certain common shortcomings.

"FEMG, therefore, provides information about emotional experience at a level that cannot be matched by self-report methods: FEMG responses are based on a preconscious appraisal of pleasantness that allows people to identify affect-laden events in advertising and specify their valence without any biases linked to consciousness, such as social desirability."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff

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