Mind Reading and Neuromarketing on 60 Minutes


CBS aired a lengthy segment on “mind reading” that offered quite a bit of good information on how various labs are using fMRI to determine what people are thinking. Reporter Lesley Stahl began the piece at Carnegie Mellon University, where profs Marcel Just and Tom Mitchell are doing amazing work in which they use a computer to predict what object someone is thinking about (See CMU Computers Read Thoughts.) The incredible aspect of the CMU research is that the computer predictions are based not on previous brain scans from that subject, but from scans of other subjects. As part of the segment, 60 Minutes had an associate producer (= someone expendable in case things went horribly wrong!) slide into CMU’s fMRI machine and tested the ability of the CMU technique to identify ten objects purely from scanning her brain. Spoiler alert: in the first “real time” demonstration of the technique, the CMU computer scored a perfect 10 correct guesses.

60 Minutes didn’t stop there – after discussing other work in “mind reading” they moved on to the controversial use of fMRI in lie detection. The piece closed with a brief and slightly skeptical discussion of neuromarketing. Watch the whole thing:

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