“…the latest discoveries in brain science, and applies them to dating, relationships and love. Discover BrainDesire and find out which men or women have a real potential for dating and for a serious relationship with you.”
It does this by an online test, where you enter the name of the person you are romantically interested in and the name is then used in a relatively simple priming experiment where the name is used as the prime and the task is a lexical decision. The idea is that the name of Mr or Ms Right leads to higher arousal, and therefore a faster reaction time for the lexical decision. Once the test is complete, your results are then available for a modest fee.
My initial reaction to this was “pffftt… yeah, right”, and expressing this opinion on twitter was what first attracted the attention of the CEO of the company. We ended up having quite a technical discussion by e-mail about the scientific basis of the procedure BrainDesire uses and my assessment of it is now much better informed. There are several potential issues with the test which were immediately apparent.
Firstly, the scientific basis of the test. It’s largely based on a 2006 paper by Bianchi-Demicheli, Grafton and Ortigue which demonstrates the reaction time speeding effect when a beloved’s name is used as a prime. These authors are well respected scientists who generally do outstanding work and I have no reason to suppose that there is anything wrong with the paper (yes, I could get nit-picky about the methods, but I could do that with almost any paper). Incidentally, Scott Grafton and Stephanie Ortigue comprise the Scientific Advisory Board of the company. What I do have an issue with though, is that this result has never really been convincingly replicated. There’s another paper from 2007 which uses the same task in a fMRI scanner, and pretty-much replicates the result, however the effects are much weaker and the sample size is much smaller, plus only women were used in this experiment. Not totally convincing. Read the rest of this entry