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I think by this point, everyone knows that tapping on the lid of a soda can with your fingernails will prevent that can from exploding, regardless how shaken up it might be. What they probably don't know is why that works!

Well, I don't either.



Searching Google for that information, I stumbled across this fascinating article on Subliminal Advertising. It's a long read, but a good one.

Basically, it's all reversed from how I imagined it (my perception comes mostly from Michael Chrichton films). Yes, there's a lot of sexual imagery used, but it's nearly all homosexual in nature, so we can bury their message along with the unwanted stimulus. These guys thrive on our being so repressed. (Our best defense? Don't be.)

And then there's this:
    One of the research techniques advertisers used is depth interviews, either in individuals or groups. The researcher would gather a group of people and discuss a topic, like in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The psychologist would lead and direct the discussion so people would reveal their fears and desires. For example, an alcoholic might say something about having nightmares after trying to stop drinking. The researcher would then ask exactly what the alcoholic was dreaming about, and then use his dreams as subliminal images on advertisements.


    The advertisers' favorite image to put in here are skulls and screaming contorted faces. Key has analyzed such an ad and found that these are the nightmares alcoholics have in their sleep. Using a similar technique, I also found a dozen or so screaming faces, skulls, and animal faces in a Seagram's Extra Dry Gin ad. If I only found one face in one ad, it could have come from my imagination. The multitude of similar images in several alcohol ads shows that advertisers must have intentionally put it in.
Back in Elementary School, I had these supplimentary classes, and we spent a whole quarter in there going over advertising. Somehow, they never mentioned any of this.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 28th, 2005 02:11 am (UTC)

I don't really recall the specifics, but I think we first talked about this in high school. Today, there is some talk about expanding current “media awareness” or “media literacy” projects in schools. The Canadian government has a really cool site on tricks used in the media to manipulate viewers. I've linked to the site before in my blog to show how food is altered by some food designers in order to make it look better on film. PBS has a site with some similar media awareness content, but not as much of it.

I recall hearing a report years ago on “On the Media” years ago about the inefficacity of subliminal advertising in political commericials (reference near the end of this Wikipedia article). I found an article from the Straight Dope column that is similarly sceptical and also provides some historical context for the topic. But who knows, really? It's an old idea that still seems to attract research funds, so they might have learned a few new tricks.

By the way, I tried to find out who this “Dr. Lechnar” is who apparently wrote the article you linked, and found a bunch of copies of the article on various blogs, but nothing independent of it. The supposed name of the author itself is manipulative, since putting “Dr.” in front of someone's name lends an air of credibility, or at least scholarliness to their publications. I suspect that it's a pseudonym, and probably not from someone who actually holds a doctorate. Academics tend to write their names in the “Annabel Lechnar, Ph.D.” format. Anyhow, in my search, I found alternative interpretations of some of the evidence “Dr. Lechnar” uses.

Mar. 28th, 2005 11:35 am (UTC)
Interesting. The pseudonym angle (he's like Dr. Seuss!) would never have occurred to me.

Nice references, by the way. I was only able to give them a cursory once-over right now (I'm checking in from work), but some of these are definitely worth a deeper look when I get home.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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