Your brain on commercialism

by midlifecrisisqueen on August 28, 2013

Commercialism: Excessive emphasis on profit.

While sitting through 20 minutes of regular commercials which came before 15 minutes of movie commercials yesterday at my local theater, it occurred to me that boomers have probably seen more commercials than any other human beings in the history of the world.  And the younger generation wonders why we appear brain dead…

“At times it seems we’re nothing but guinea pigs in a long line of mind- clutter experiments.  As in no previous generation, our brains have been filled with far too much mindless television, in-your-face commercialism, and non-stop media coverage.  We were also the first generation to grow up with television.” (excerpted from my new book, Find Your Reason to Be Here)

And that “experiment” is more devious than we know.  According to a 2010 PBS special, there are corporations that specialize in “neuromarketing.”  Their specialty is fooling your brain into listening to commercials you think you are ignoring.  They claim they can tell advertisers how to make better commercials by replacing focus groups with an electroencephalogram.

Much like a brain microphone, the EEG strapped to your head picks up brainwaves created by the electrical activity that passes between neurons when your brain processes anything — even commercials.

For example, when Morgan Freeman’s “God-like” voice narrates a Visa commercial on the Olympics, as we watch images of the torch-lighting ceremony, a figure skater, and hockey players, lab director Mark Kishiyama shows us a series of squiggly waves that appear on a screen. “This is your brain activity right now, real time,” Kishiyama says.

“When you’re watching ads.  You may think you’re passively watching, but your brain is responding.  It’s not always conscious, but subconscious or non-conscious,” Kishiyama says. “But the awareness is still there.”

That awareness shows up on the EEG as tall peaks in the parts of your brain associated with emotion, attention and memory.  Those parts get busy at certain moments in the ad and there is solid evidence that your brain is making nonconscious links between the credit card and the Olympics.

So, the next time you think those stupid commercials aren’t effecting your brain… think again.

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