Your Brain on Advertising


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.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.
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