Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, February 27, 2021

Edward L. Bernays, the acknowledged father of modern public-relations practice, formulated a theory called “engineering of consent” to explain his craft:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society,” Bernays argued. “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country… In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

Bernays had a special resource for looking into the workings of the mass mindset: His uncle and mentor was Sigmund Freud. Thus we see the earliest intersection of the sciences of psychology and propaganda.

Bernays was definitely on to something by digging into the brain: “Neuromarketing” studies are showing that advertising and marketing efforts interact with braincells in such a way that they actually mold mental processes over time, creating “branded brains”.

Inside the brain of the 54-year-old male volunteer, the sight of a desirable product triggered an involuntary surge of synapses in the motor cerebellum that ordinarily orchestrate the movement of a hand.

Without his mind being aware of it, his brain had started to reach out.

Deconstructing the anatomy of choice, the researchers are also probing the pliable neural circuits of reasoning and problem-solving — the last of the brain’s regions to evolve, the last to mature during childhood, and the most susceptible to outside influences.

They have begun to obtain the first direct glimpses of how marketing can affect the structures of the brain.

It turns out the marketers have always been right: You want their crap, and it’s their job to let you know that you want it. It’s the engineering of consent at the microscopic level.

This all applies not only to the cola wars and blue-light specials, but also to political campaigns:

In a series of unpublished experiments conducted during the recent presidential campaign, UCLA neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni detected intriguing differences in how political brains react. It was the first time brain scanning had been used to study a political question, several experts said.

To 13 volunteers screened for political expertise and party loyalty, Iacoboni showed pictures of Sen. John F. Kerry, President Bush and Ralph Nader while recording their neural activity. He then screened footage for them from Republican and Democratic campaign ads.

Afterward, he recorded how their neural responses changed when they were shown the same faces a second time.

Not surprisingly, Iacoboni found that people watching their favored candidate responded with a surge of activity in the reward circuits of the brain.

Republican die-hards, however, seemed to have a strong positive emotional response to any prominent leader.

But those Republican brain patterns changed when exposed to Bush campaign ads, which stimulated activity in areas involved in more rational deliberation, Iacoboni said.

Shown campaign advertising that touched on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republicans and Democrats again had different responses.

“The Democrats had a big response in the amygdala — the anxiety threat detector and bell-ringer in the brain,” said UCLA psychiatrist Joshua Freedman, who helped organize the experiment. “Republicans did not have a statistically significant response to that, for whatever reason.”

These findings do seem to jibe with theories about linear thinking, or lack thereof, indicating political inclination. Regardless, red state or blue state, it’s all in the sell job.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 05:30:15 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Politics, Science | Permalink |

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