Message no. 458[Branch from no. 452] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on
Patrice, I think you are right on the money (literally!). The people who produce for television have been hiring statisticians and psychologists for many decades now, and they constantly do surveys and market tests. Remember the "Nielsen" ratings system? Many of our brightest and most ambitious psychology graduates end up working for such organizations, and they apply every thing you are learning in this course to their jobs. But unfortunately their jobs are rarely trying to improve our environments, but to make money off of us, as you can imagine!
Knowledge is power, and the pen is mightier than the sword. In many countries (such as
Scripts for television are passed by the advertising sponsors who have some measure of creative control. They deliberately time the number and length of commercials and, yes, they know what kind of stories will make you sit through more commercials, and which will make you get up to go to the fridge -- in fact, since the people who fill your fridge are often the same companies advertising on TV, they WANT you to get up and go to the fridge -- and they run their commercials several times so that at least once you will see it, be subliminally seduced, and the next time say, "I've already seen that commercial" and get up and go to the fridge (usually to grab the thing that they were selling!). They also expect you to go to the bathroom, which is why they put so many "please don't squeeze the charmin" adds on during nightly sitcoms when I was a kid. They pretty much KNOW the different environments available to you at home, and they deliberately play with your minds.
In truth, the stories and the ads are ALL meant to manipulate our behavior. And it doesn't really matter what any given individual does or thinks because they are not after "you", they are after "the statistical average person". Their studies show that they can capture, say, 80% of consumers. That increases sales by, say, 23%. What do they care if 20% of you have learned environmental psychology and are immune to their techniques and tricks of manipulation? As long as they are turning a profit, the educated consumer is no threat at all.
All psychological studies that I know of work this way -- they tell us statistics: means (averages), medians, standard deviations, significance values... With these data the power holders can manipulate just enough people to turn large profits.
I am fairly sure some earnest grad student has even studied whether villains make us buy less or more of a product. I think the answer is "no" for the most part. Even though nowadays villains tend to smoke cigarettes and heroes tend not to (though it was different in the past), and even though we now have solid evidence that cigarettes not only kill the smoker, but spread radioactive Polonium 210 (the substance the KGB used to kill the soviet spy Litvenenko!) into the room and into the air and water and food to slowly poison and kill non-smokers, cigarette sales world wide have actually INCREASED! The tobacco companies showed the largest profits in history this year.
When you read chapter 14 you will learn that the sad fact is that most techniques to "exhort" or "convince" people to stop doing something do not work on a mass level, statistically speaking. And perception of what seems like far off danger (years away) has little effect on THE MAJORITY of people. The mere fact that a VILAIN does something bad probably has less effect than the mere fact you saw SOMEBODY doing the action or using the product who was "BIGGER THAN LIFE". Your brain remembers that another human did something, and seemed to enjoy it, and "monkey see monkey do" seems to be more powerful than "who did that? Do I like or approve of them?"
The advertisers and TV show makers know this-- they have access to the statistics. So they probably say, "it is worth the risk -- I'll wager that if we have a bad guy smoke or drink, and kids see it, they will be more inclined to smoke or drink the next time they have a conflict with their parents, because they will associate with somebody who has some power, if only the power to rebel against the "goody two-shoes authority figures".
It is complex, but I think the data are now showing that many behaviors, particularly addictive ones, can not be stopped by "moral suasion" -- the mere fact of seeing it is enough to trigger the behavior in MOST (definitely not all!) people.
The solution? We need to conduct rigorous studies and analysis of what DOES work. Then we need to apply the solutions, realizing that we, too, can never capture everybody, but can at best capture the MAJORITY.
This is a game of constant catch up and shifting statistics. The fortunate thing is that we are not clones, and that there is always individual variation!