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Friday, August 01, 2008

Pavlovian Politics

In a famous or perhaps infamous experiment in the 1920's , the psychologist John Watson struck a metal bar as a little child named Albert grasped a cuddly white rat. Afterward, little Albert was understandably upset and anxious when even viewing the white rat. The 'little Albert' experiment thus demonstrated that mere association, no matter how spurious, can generate fear and loathing. It's sort of like the feeling we get when a friend tells us that they are a member of the democratic or republican parties, it just depends upon whether either party struck us the wrong way in the past.

This associational principle was discovered by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov in the early 20th century. But although his work is generally forgotten, these Pavlovian principles live on, at least in modern advertising. Called product placement, if you want to sell a Mercedes, cereal, or hemorrhoid medication, might as well place it respectively in Paris, among giddy children, or in the midst of happy adults traipsing through fields of flowers. In fact, if you want to sell anything, just put in the hands of happy people waltzing through fields of flowers. The latest product placement has been this below association that I've noticed in recent political ads, an association which I must say has strongly affected me.

I don't know about you, but somehow I'm suddently finding this Barack guy as something of a turn on.

1 comment:

phd in yogurtry said...

excellent post!