Your Brain on Advertising

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The amygdala, when aroused by emotions such as fear, can override logic. The recent crop of political ads which are based on arousing a response at a subconscious level are powerful in terms of influencing what we think about the candidate, their opponent and the latent message. Drew Westen, Ph.D., a psychologist at Emory University in Georgia studies how thew brain reacts to candidates' messages. Dr. Westen believes that the "gut level" responses are very important and that the conscious brain only processes a small amount of the information. Dr. Westen and his business partner, Joel Weinberger, have developed a software that measures a person's reaction time to certain words after they watch "attack" ads. Words such as "weak", "inexperienced", :lightweight" and "terrorist" when coupled with a solicited color response shows that the word has an impact. The analysis of the responses showed that a slowdown in response time indicated that the word had an unconscious impact. Undecided voters, who said that they didn't like the ads demonstrated little effect.

Political advertisements which are pitched to our subconscious can have a powerful effect on what we think about a candidate and ultimately, how we vote. Just think about what makes you respond to a political ad.

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