The Affair: Steve Jobs, Cerebral Cortex and Unrequited Love

There is a firm down in Texas by the name of MindSign Neuromarketing that you can hire to see how customers and potential customers react to seeing your ads or commercials. They hook up volunteers with electrodes and measure the activity levels of their brains while watching or reading this material. Depending on what lights up, they can tell you if the viewer or reader is bored, excited, interested or offended. I am not making this up. There are some people out there making millions selling this service. Google it and you’ll see.

At some point, a company hired this firm and had them do a study to see if people liked the iPhone. What they found was amazing. In addition to the fact that people were excited by it, the firm found considerable activity in the insular cortex of the brain, an area which is known to light up when people feel love and compassion. [expand]

A writer named Martin Lindstrom duplicated this experiment by also hiring this firm, but with a twist. He asked the firm to measure the different parts of brain activation when people were exposed to the sounds an iPhone makes, and then when they saw a video of it without sound accompanying it.

Again the insular cortex lit up everywhere People simply LOVE their iPhones.

It seems this is the case only with people and products from Apple. No other products registered this way. All competitors were seen as just good devices. But people could live with them or without them.

Lindstrom wrote about this phenomenon in the op-ed section of The New York Times. And it reminded me of a similar study I had seen on television done with dogs. I believe it was in a documentary on Channel 13.

In this documentary, it was shown that dogs are, in many physical ways, not much different than wolves. However, unlike wolves, and in fact unlike any other animals on this planet, dogs have come to love and feel compassion when befriended by humans. Indeed, they join the human families they become attached to. They are the only species that yearns to join with humans. Other species feel the same thing, but about their own. With their own, they lead lives in herds or packs.

It was shown in the documentary that dogs will bond this way only with humans who wish to bond with them. They reciprocate. They feel the empathy and they offer it back. It’s quite extraordinary.

This plays out not only in the insular cortex, but in the eye contact. In earlier studies, when humans bond with their children, their lovers or their children, scientists report a drifting away from eye contact always to the left. No one knows why this is. When dogs make eye contact with the humans they love, the same drifting off to the left occurs. It is the only known example of this between species. Thus it is that dogs will run into a fire to save a child, or wake a man from a sound sleep when danger lurks.

Although the feelings that occur between humans and dogs or humans with iPhones appears to be the same, there is one difference. With iPhones, the feeling is a one-way street. As yet, Apple has not been able to find a way to get an iPhone to get all excited in the insular cortex part of its motherboard.

On the other hand, it seems there really is a two-way street quality about this relationship. It was called Steve Jobs. At his performances—there is no other word to describe these extravaganzasJobs would introduce products on the stage, and yet he would be speaking personally to you, or, more correctly, to me.

I felt it, he felt it, and so there it was. Love between me and Apple, which included not only him but also everything else Apple.

Now he is gone. People say his genius was in getting people to yearn for something that they did not know, up until then, that they needed. And maybe this is so. But I think the real contribution he made was bringing me, uh, us, into the family. It is an utterly unique accomplishment.

“This is just so, uh cool,” he would say, looking me right in the eye.

The new head of Apple, Tim Cook, had the same dramatic Wizard-of-Oz stage to prance around on. But he didn’t prance. He showed us pie charts. I will miss Steve Jobs. And I will wait to see if Apple can find the geek who can make love to me going forward and get that insular cortex part of my brain lighting up as it has until now. They’ve got to have some guy or girl high up in the organization who can do this.

Or maybe they can go to Hollywood and hire Taylor Swift. She and I have something going.


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