Predicting the FutureA recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that activity in the medial prefrontal cortex can predict behavior more accurately than the individuals themselves.  Participants in the study listened to public service announcements on the benefits of sunscreen while their brains were scanned in an fMRI machine.  The participants were asked whether or not they would use sunscreen in the next week.  A week later they were asked whether they actually used sunscreen.

Participants who predicted that they would use sunscreen accurately predicted their own behavior about half of the time.  While those who had a high level of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex actually used sunscreen about 75% of the time.

The researchers see many potential uses of this improved ability to predict behavior.  Advertising agencies, public health officials, and educators could all benefit from more accurate knowledge about how people will behave.  Lead author on the study, Emily Falk, said, “Instead of talking with people about what they think they will do, a public health or advertising agency can study their brains and learn what they are really likely to do and how an advertisement would be likely to affect millions of other people as well.”