We study humans in the wild by creating “Experiential Experiments” that break down the walls of the traditional laboratory and invite audiences to participate in real world, measurable, interactive research.

This approach to research unlocks more meaningful, personal insights and can drive innovation in product development and communication.

We work with corporations, brands, institutions and organizations to bring these experiences to life.

The Value for Individuals, Brands, Audiences and Organisations

  • “Owning” a concept like awe, tolerance or empowerment that is central to your organization and the human condition.
  • Empirical, scientifically based data and insight related to your audience and their perception before, during and after the experiment.
  • Meaningful content for PR and marketing initiatives.
  • People walk away with a better understanding of themselves: who they are and why.

Our process

Placing the public at the center of the scientific process of discovery yields more authentic insights and results in deeper engagement and understanding. Our process brings clients, audiences and collaborators into the creation as well as the experience of an experiment.

How we do it

  • Discover the question in order to create an experiment
  • Convert the experiment in to a real world experience with real people
  • Observe, generate and share insights
  • BCW
  • Sainsbury's
  • Microsoft
  • Edelman
  • Cirque Du Soleil
  • L'Oreal
  • TJ Maxx
  • National Geographic
  • CURA
Case study

Cirque du Soleil

Where does awe live inside the brain? Does awe have an impact on how humans behave and evolve?

We measured 400 participants using a blend of techniques including EEG headsets, galvanic skin response, psychological testing and heart rate monitoring, looking for changes in their unconscious perception and behavior before and after the performance.

This study chartered new territory in the field of neuroscience, creating the first ever neural metric for human experiences of awe and wonder.

The Lab of Misfits + Cirque du Soleil project produced scientifically based insight in to Cirque’s core brand value of awe.

We were able to measure awe in the brain, and why it matters. Changes in the audience included:

  • Increased their tolerance to risk
  • Became more open and pro-social to others
  • Reduced their need for control

These observations were measured unconsciously and changed to a statistically significant degree.

In addition, our AI system can now predict when someone is experiencing awe with 82% accuracy. With this, we can design to maximize awe, or even discover the demographics of people who are most likely to experience awe at a Cirque show.

Our Cirque project also produced content that was activated across multiple platforms.

  • An ABC TV news segment
  • An article in Fast Company
  • The commissioning of a new style of TED talk between the Lab of Misfits and Cirque, scheduled for 2019.

Lead Scientists:
Beau Lotto
Rich Clarke

Art Direction
Dannii Evans

Clementine Seely

Collaborating Scientists
Isabel Behncke
Moran Cerf
Larry Maloney

Collaborating Artists:
Miuchael McQuilken

In the news


Cirque Du Soleil Hires A Neuroscientist To Unlock The Mystery Of 'Awe'

Read more
Live Science

Here's Your Brain on Cirque du Soleil: Performers Spark Awe, Scans Show

Read more
Fast Company

Cirque du Soleil’s new show is spectacular, and so is its technology

Read more
Fast Company

This is your brain on Cirque du Soleil

Read more
ABC News

Cirque Du Soleil is studying audience members' brains to create new shows

Read more

Cirque du Soleil and the neuroscience of awe

Read more
Case study


Working with L’Oreal we were able to identify connections between the way women feel about themselves, their hair and beauty.

Hair is a fundamental part of the human body. And indeed, the human brain uses hair to determine, not only the ‘beauty’ of another person, but their physical and reproductive fitness, emotional health and even identity.

We tested whether it would be possible to use hair as a mediator of personal transformation.

We took women aged 25 to 45 through a series of Experiential Experiments and discovered that the experiential hair experiment not only increased their sense of empowerment, but also raised their tolerance to risk, and even their creativity.

The data demonstrated that hair is strongly connected to personal transformation.

  • Statistically significant increase in the creativity of the subjects after the experience, with the largest effect for the “hard” creativity challenges problems.
  • Significant increase in their subconscious positive perception of self after the experience.
  • An increase in an unconscious association with traits consistent with a perception of higher power and attractiveness as compared to before the experience.
  • Increased subconscious perception of openness after the experience.

Cirque Du Soleil Hires A Neuroscientist To Unlock The Mystery Of 'Awe'

Cirque Du Soleil (CDS) is the largest theatrical production in the world. It’s also arguably the most successful live show at evoking feelings of ‘awe’ in audiences. The circus is an impressive confluence of athletic arts, set design, lighting, costumes, makeup and music. “We've been called creators of awe for years,” says Kristina Heney, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at CDS. The response Heney and her colleagues get about the show is a lot of “wow,” “oh my god” and “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Spectators are sometimes moved to tears when describing how much the show means to them “but they still aren't able to really explain to us the deeper emotional connection that they feel,” says Heney. To get a better understanding of the relationship between awe and CDS, the company hired neuroscientist Beau Lotto and his team at Lab of Misfits to conduct a behavioral neuroscience study.

Read the full article

Here's Your Brain on Cirque du Soleil: Performers Spark Awe, Scans Show

NEW YORK — The gravity-defying stunts of Cirque du Soleil performers have been described as "awe-inspiring," but what actually happens in the human brain when a person experiences that sense of awe — and does that brain activity really take place for audiences during Cirque du Soleil performances?

Read the full article

Cirque du Soleil’s new show is spectacular, and so is its technology

A few minutes before intermission of the Cirque du Soleil’s wonderful new show, Volta, the audience is treated to a nostalgic remembrance of the formative years of Waz, the main character. Called “Daydreaming,” the segment reveals Waz’s memories of his childhood and mother. As the adult Waz sits and gazes off into the distance watching old home movies, we see those moments displayed large and in brilliant color on the outer walls of the room in which he’s sitting.

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This is your brain on Cirque du Soleil

Although she sees nearly all of the company’s seven different Vegas shows (except Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak Live”), as well as many of its other shows around the U.S., Asia, and Europe, “O” is her mainstay. First opened in Vegas in 1998, “O” is Cirque’s famous water show, probably its most ambitious, given its clever and beautiful incorporation of a 1.5 million-gallon swimming pool that, at certain points, seems to magically disappear.

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Cirque Du Soleil is studying audience members' brains to create new shows

Cirque du Soleil is synonymous with big, jaw-dropping stunts performed at insane heights and mesmerizing shows.

But at the O Theater in Las Vegas, the theater company is doing something that it has never done before -- studying “your brain on Cirque.”

The company asked a team of scientists to attach electrodes to audience members’ heads and monitor their brain waves as they watch the performances.

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Cirque du Soleil and the neuroscience of awe

A group of scientists studied the mind-blowing effects of Cirque du Soleil shows. Here’s what they learned.

Have you ever started crying at a live show? Not because it’s sad or even all that emotional, but because the spectacle is so overwhelming that it feels like all your synapses are firing at full capacity and the feeling has to leak out of your body as tears, or yelling, or dancing?

Read the full article