The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'influence'
Psychology experiments have shown that subliminal exposure to brands can prime people with the attributes those brands have cultivated. For example, when students were exposed to either an Apple or IBM logo and asked to list all the uses for a brick they could imagine, the Apple ("creativity, noncomformity") group came up with significantly more than the IBM ("tradition, responsibility") group. In a subsequent experiment, candidates primed with the Disney logo behaved more honestly than those primed with the logo of E! Channel (which, I believe, is a celebrity-gossip cable-TV channel in the US).
The practical consequences of this are interesting: if this is to be taken at face value then, by the sheer power of subliminal conditioning and marketing, brands do have magical properties, and branded products would perform better than physically identical unbranded ones. A brand logo is a macro, a tightly-encoded package of ideas, instantaneously decoded by appropriately conditioned consumers (and that means all of us; given the studies showing that young children learn to recognise brands before they learn to read), and priming has been shown to work. (In one experiment (previously mentioned here), students were asked to sort words, and then surreptitiously timed as they walked down the corridor on leaving. Those given words relating to old age—including, memorably, "Florida"—walked more slowly than those given youth-related words. Another experiment showed that exposure to alcohol-related words increased men's sex drive.)
Putting these facts together, it seems that using an Apple computer would make you more creative, even if you work in the same version of Microsoft Word you could as easily use on Windows, though so would having an Apple iPod, and Nike shoes could make you run faster than generic trainers of exactly the same composition, and so on. It's not necessarily even limited to brands, but could extend to any perceptible medium associated with qualities or values. It'd be interesting to see whether, for example, if one took two groups of students and, after surreptitiously exposing half of them to Belle & Sebastian and the other half to 50 Cent, asked them to play a game, whether members of one group would be more aggressive or competitive than the other.
Anyway, this finding could be seen as a justification for big brands' steep markups of otherwise average products: they're not exploiting a gullible public, they're selling the psychological magic of their brand. Though if you don't want to pay the markup, you could just as easily clip ads out of papers and tape them around your cubicle/kitchen/locker/wherever, which might get you a similar result, at the risk of making you look like a tragic. Just keep reminding yourself that you're not a gullible dupe or an unpaid human billboard, but a cunningly rebellious pirate, sticking it to The Man by stealing his magic without paying.
I wonder, though, whether candidates subliminally exposed to craptacular knockoffs of Apple products would experience a boost of creativity or a drop in IQ.
The Mind Hacks blog has a report of an interesting study on subliminal influence:
You go to the supermarket and stop by some shelves offering French and German wine. You buy a bottle of French wine. After going through the checkout you are asked what made you choose that bottle of wine. You say something like "It was the right price", or "I liked the label". Did you notice the French music playing as you took it off the shelf? You probably did. Did it affect your choice of wine? No, you say, it didn't.
That's funny because on the days we play French music nearly 80% of people buying wine from those shelves choose French wine, and on the days we play German music the opposite happensThe study in question used stereotypical examples of national music (French accordion music and German "oom-pah" band music), yielding the results mentioned, and is effective primarily due to its subtlety. It would not be enough to make someone not intending to buy wine buy some, but is enough to influence the choice of wine.
What would be the effect, I wonder, of having someone stand by the shelves saying to the customers as they passed "Why don't you buy a French wine today"? My hunch is that you'd make people think about their decision a lot more - just by trying to persuade them you'd turn the decision from a low involvement one into a high involvement one. People would start to discount your suggestion. But the suggestion made by the music doesn't trigger any kind of monitoring. Instead, the authors of this study believe, it triggers memories associated with the music - preferences and frames of reference. Simply put, hearing the French music activates  ideas of 'Frenchness' - maybe making customers remember how much they like French wine, or how much they enjoyed their last trip to France. For a decision which people aren't very involved with, with low costs either way (both the French and German wines are pretty similar, remember, except for their nationality) this is enough to swing the choice.
I went to see Derren Brown's show, Something Wicked This Way Comes tonight, at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden. It was pretty interesting.
For those not familiar with him, Brown is a mentalist whose act includes reading and influencing people using various psychological techniques. In this show, which went for about two hours and was in two parts, he did things including influencing volunteers to select specific cards/envelopes and "guess" things, presumably from suggestions he had subliminally planted. He also did an act in which he determined when people were lying. Five volunteers drew balls from a bag, and the four who got white balls (which was unknown to him) were told to lie in answering a question; Brown then determined who was lying by observing their body language.
During the second half of the show, he started off with a few fakir-like acts of physical endurance (hammering a nail into his nose and walking on broken glass). The best part was at the end, where he successfully "predicted" a word selected seemingly at random; and then, using video replays, demonstrated how he had done it. All I'll say is: pay close attention.
Derren Brown is performing until Saturday or so, and is (IMHO) well worth seeing.
Scientists in Zurich have found that dosing people with oxytocin (aka the "cuddle hormone", associated with makes them pathologically trusting:
"Of course, this finding could be misused," said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. "I don't think we currently have such abuses. However, in the future it could happen."
"I once likened trust to a love potion," Damasio writes in Nature. "Add trust to the mix, for without trust there is no love."
Dose a group of people with oxytocin and it's group hugs all round. The problem with that is that they become easy prey for anybody wishing to take advantage of them, such as con artists. If a delivery system (perhaps an aerosolised form of oxytocin, or one that can be dissolved in drinking water) could be developed, oxytocin could also be useful as a non-lethal mass-behaviour-control weapon. Imagine oxytocin bombs dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba or Venezuela; all the warring factions, insurgents and resisters put down their weapons and become one big happy family, with the added advantage that they're more than happy to sign over their sovereignty, oilfields, folk-song copyrights and traditional medicine patents, and give Starbucks a national coffee monopoly if merely asked.
(via bOING bOING)
It has been well known that alcohol causes many men to find women more attractive than they otherwise would (the effect is colloquially known as "beer goggles"). Now, researchers have found that actual alcohol isn't even required; exposure to alcohol-related words is enough; at least among men who expect that alcohol has that effect.
First, the subjects answered questionnaires that asked whether they thought alcohol affected their sex drive. Afterward, the men were divided into two groups and placed next to computers. One group was shown words that described alcohol, such as liquor, beer and keg. The other group saw words like water, soda and coffee.
The researchers found that the group of men who expected alcohol to enhance their sex drive found the women in the photos more attractive after viewing the alcohol cue words. The group that expected alcohol to reduce their sex drive found the women to be less attractive.
This echoes another priming experiment (reported in both Mind Hacks and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink), in which students surreptitiously exposed to old-age-related words like "wrinkled", "senior" and "Florida" were found to walk more slowly down a corridor than those not primed in this way.
One of Britain's leading "visual merchandising consultants" reveals the psychological tricks used by shops to get people to buy stuff: (via Mind Hacks)
Most of the prices in electrical stores end in.99p. But a few end in.98p or 95p. That's a signal that a product is old stock and needs to be sold quickly. If you're foolish enough to ask a sales assistant for advice in a big electrical chain, the loyal staff will steer you towards these.
Table tops positioned next to racks allow women to handle the trousers and tops. "Younger women like scruffed-up clothes displays it suggests that these are popular. If the piles seem too neat, then obviously no one else is buying these items. Older women are more exacting in their standards."