The Situationist

How Deceptive Advertising Preys Upon Our Minds

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 1, 2012

In my Business Organizations course this semester, we have been spending some time thinking about the collection and use of consumer data by corporations.  We have looked at the types of information that companies gather, how they employ statisticians to “weaponize” this information, and whether (and in what ways) the government might effectively (and constitutionally) regulate in this area.

Our discussion has been particularly well timed, given recent articles exposing corporate practices and proposals floated by the Obama administration to address certain types of consumer data mining practices.

One thing that surprised me in speaking with students was how unworried many of them were about corporations carefully monitoring and cataloging their behavior and characteristics.  As one student remarked, “If all of this means that Target knows when I’m in my second trimester and sends me free coupons for lotions, I think that’s great!”

I have a hunch that part of the comfort with corporate “data management” is a result of generational differences: many of my 24- or 25-year-old students have grown up in an environment in which life is lived online without window shades  and where privacy may be less valued.  Another part of the story may simply be a lack of understanding of how manipulative corporations actually are.

This leads me to wonder if with a greater knowledge of the science of advertising and marketing, we will see more restrictions on corporate actions.  If so, here is to people like Adam Craig and his colleagues who have just written an interesting new article on neural processing during exposure to deceptive advertising.

Here is the abstract:

When viewing advertisements, consumers must decide what to believe and what is meant to deceive. Accordingly, much behavioral research has explored strategies and outcomes of how consumers process persuasive messages that vary in perceived sincerity. New neuroimaging methods enable researchers to augment this knowledge by exploring the cognitive mechanisms underlying such processing. The current study collects neuroimaging data while participants are exposed to advertisements with differing levels of perceived message deceptiveness (believable, moderately deceptive, and highly deceptive). The functional magnetic resonance imaging data, combined with an additional behavioral study, offer evidence of two noteworthy results. First, confirming multistage frameworks of persuasion, the authors observe two distinct stages of brain activity: (1) precuneus activation at earlier stages and (2) superior temporal sulcus and temporal-parietal junction activation at later stages. Second, the authors observe disproportionately greater brain activity associated with claims that are moderately deceptive than those that are either believable or highly deceptive. These results provoke new thinking about what types of claims garner consumer attention and which consumers may be particularly vulnerable to deceptive advertising.

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2 Responses to “How Deceptive Advertising Preys Upon Our Minds”

  1. From the times when Priests used their idle time to study humanity to the current Priests of Profit we who are the general public are constantly and consistently being studied and farmed. We are in fact, “Farm Raised” human beings.

  2. Reblogged this on WealthShare Society.

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