Dean Griffiths – Brain Washing

Almost a year ago I decided to stop watching the news and reading the newspapers. I was probably like some of you, bored of all the negative things going on in the world and how only certain stories made it into the news, when clearly in the age of the internet, we were well aware of so much more interesting and exciting things going on in the world that the media should be reporting on, but felt the need not too.

So being the inqusitive person that I am, I wanted to delve a little deeper into why this is. So this is the first in a series of posts. And I want to start off by talking about Neuromarketing!

But before we get into what Neuromarketing is, I want to tell you about the man considered the father of Neuromarketing, a man called Edwards Bernays. Bernays was considered a pioneer in the early 1900’s in the field of public relations and propaganda (Propaganda is the name of this 1928 book) and known as the ‘Father of Spin’, he was also the Nephew of Sigmund Freud!

Bernays was one of the first people to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious. His use of PR was based on social scientific theories, including Gustave Le Bon’s ideas on crowd psychology. The main idea of crowd psychology being that people in a crowd act differently from individuals: the minds of people in a crowd can merge to form a single way of thinking. Crucially, Bernays felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct’.
He actually believed in democracy, but he felt that the public’s democratic judgment was ‘not to be relied upon.’ The masses were inherently irrational and driven by desire. This made them dangerous, so he felt the masses had to be controlled. The good news was that, according to crowd psychology, the masses were relatively easy to control.
Bernays was a genius at finding cultural hot buttons that enabled him to craft highly persuasive campaigns for his clients (Clients including; General Motors, Proctor and Gamble, American Tobacco, as well as several U.S. Presidents and even turned Hitler down as a client!). One example of Bernays work was to help convert millions of women into smokers by positioning the habit as a form of independence! So to some this could be considered a form of ‘brainwashing’!! which brings me back to Neuromarketing.
The bases for Neuromarketing derives from the Greek Philosopher Plato. Plato’s two horses drawn by a chariot philosophy was the first to link the human person to a human soul (mind). One horse symbolizes human emotion (system 1) while the other is a representation of human reasoning (system 2). Based on this this, consumer buying decisions rely on either System 1 or System 2 processing or Plato’s two horses and a chariot. System 1 thinking is intuitive, unconscious, effortless, fast and emotional. In contrast, decisions driven by system 2 are deliberate, conscious reasoning, slow and effortful. In consumer behavior, these processes guide everyday purchasing decisions. Basically saying that buying decisions are driven by one’s mood and emotions; concluding that compulsive and or spontaneous purchases for example are driven by system 1.
Neuromarketing is a science that’s based on the fact that 95% of all thoughts, emotions, and learning occur before we are ever aware of it, no surprise to those of you who are aware of Epigenetics! That means companies are actually only talking to 5% of their customers’ brains!
Fortunately, scientists are able to study just what kind of marketing hits that other 95% of our brains in the right way and the reasons why companies spend millions on using this to technology. By attaching electrodes to subjects’ heads and evaluating the electrical patterns of their brain waves, researchers can track the intensity of visceral responses such as anger, lust, disgust, and excitement, making Neuromarketing a very powerful tool for large corporations with products to sell!
In a study from the group of Read Montague published in 2004 in Neuron, 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the “Pepsi Challenge”, a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Half the subjects chose Pepsi, since Pepsi tended to produce a stronger response than Coke in their brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region thought to process feelings of reward. But when the subjects were told they were drinking Coke three-quarters said that Coke tasted better. Their brain activity had also changed. The lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers, and the hippocampus, an area related to memory, were now being used, indicating that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions. The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand.
So let me leave you with this question,
Which industries products would benefit more from bad news being reported over good news, and what’s the cost to these companies to have bad news reported rather than promoting good news and do they have the power to influence what the media reports to us?