Andres Aullet


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Should we teach our kids about how advertisement (public relationships, marketing) works?

Let's face it, advertisement works.

But let's also admit it, it is not as simple as a creative ad shown during the superbowl or a picture on a magazine that we find funny and incidentally reminds us of some particular brand of chips, or insurance company.

As far as i know (admittedly a much more thorough research can be done), advertisement works because it exploits a few flaws in the way our subconscious work:

- we remember things best when emotion is evoked while we learn them (fear, anger, excitement). And this is due to the chemical changes that these emotions induce in our brain.

- we decide mostly with emotions, and not with reason. This seems counter intuitive to most people

- we live with the ever present contradiction of trying to be unique and trying to be like others. We like to be singled out if we are wearing nice clothing, but we hate being singled out if our pants happen to rip.

- being rejected by our peers, or not being part of the in-group we admire, actually hurts, pretty much in the same way (neurologically) as a punch in the stomach hurts

- anything repeated frequently makes a stronger memory, easier to recall, and a memory that is easier to recall is trusted more (and feels more familiar) regardless of it's veracity

- novel experiences are considered riskier than familiar experiences, regardless of their real inherent risk

So all these factors are merged with a product and tweaked to make that product appealing and familiar to us, without us fully understanding why it feels appealing and familiar.

Now, recently the target of the advertising industry are increasingly younger kids. And I would venture to say that if many adults don't fully understand why advertisement works, then even less kids would be expected to know

Should we include in a kids education: at schools, in church sermons, at dinner table conversations, an explanation of what advertisement is and why it works? What would be an argument against teaching this?

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    Oct 19 2012: I would only add... I think a few of these, are learned behaviors, and a symptom of a dysfunctional culture.

    "We decide mostly with emotions, and not with reason. This seems counter intuitive to most people" This is something that culture used to work hard to try to train out of us. Men especially, were taught that emotions are a weakness, and that we must learn to control them. In modern American society, we are not taught to ignore our emotions. Much more we are taught to express them, and talk about them. Everyone's a winner, every idea is a good idea, there is no stupid question... I think we are making ourselves, and our children, far more susceptable to manipulation and propaganda.

    Should we discuss advertising with our children? It's like asking, when should we tell them Santa isn't real. You're about to explain to them that every human being is far from perfect, including yourself, and that we all lie to ourselves, and others, very regularly. The best way to explain it, would be to reference a product you personally feel you got "suckered in" on.

    In order to survive, you will need to learn to discern lies from truth. The brain, which you see as your "self", is occasionally, not your friend. If I had kids I'd probably start explaining that when they're 2 or 3, even though their brain is like an etch-a-sketch... but I'm a bit crazy like that. People are manipulating the most primitive parts of a childs brain, and then feeding them lies... It's not going to stop simply because you don't talk to your children about it.

    Early and often I say, but realize that the real antidote is learning to accept, and understand the ways in which your own brain, often do to primal instincts, simply fails you. Without that acceptance and understanding, you can't really control it, or properly defend yourself. That's a tough conversation for most people to have with themselves let alone children. Also, boys and girls are manipulated in entirely different ways.
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      Oct 19 2012: Right on point as usual David... thanks for jumping into the conversation.

      You are correct that in the past we were taught to repress emotions, and suddenly the pendulum went to the other extreme where one of the main purposes of educating a child is to make sure he/she gets in touch with his feelings. The reason why that still makes us more susceptible to manipulation and propaganda is because between recognizing a feeling and understanding where it comes from there is still a missing step

      Yes it is great to tell the kid who is not picked to play in the soccer team that his feelings are something real and that there is nothing wrong in showing them, but why not go one step further and tell him that these feelings come from a subconscious reaction that evolved when people depended on belonging to the group for their survival. Yes, Bear Grylls (man vs. wild) ancestors were far outnumbered by humans that were somewhat terrified of leaving their group, so it is no surprise that most present day humans have inherited such mechanism

      I guess now that i go through this explanation i see why it is difficult... not everyone will share my conviction that the pain of not belonging to a group is an inherited trait that lives in our subconscious...I'll have to think about that one

      Yes, once we open the pandora's box of telling a kid that not all he hears on tv is true, we must accept that they will make the inference that not everything they hear ANYWHERE is always true.

      Neuroscience has made great advances, but even though your last sentence makes perfect sense to me, i have seen that many people, specially adults, do not accept the fact that our subconscious is not something that can be repressed into oblivion, but on the contrary, a very integral part of who we are as a whole

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        Oct 19 2012: I agree completely. I just think that our subconcious desires can be honed to create some of the most satisfying experiences of our lives... Or, it can be distorted, and perverted into making us feel constantly unfulfilled. They are neither inherently bad, nor good, you just don't always have as much control over them as you like to think. As you say, they will never be repressed into oblivion.

        I think a big part of adulthood, and being a role model is having control over your subconscious mind, but to pretend it doesn't exist, or that your control is perfect... Is something entirely different, and I don't think that's very healthy for anyone involved.

        I had a very odd advertising idea during a Super Bowl commercial...

        All I could think was "Rosetta Stone". We could use some of these forces for good.
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          Oct 19 2012: Man you made me laugh!... worst part is, i do speak enough italian to understand it!

          Yes indeed it can be used both ways

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      Oct 19 2012: I think two year olds are too young for this message, but grade school kids are not at all too young to hear that not everything they see, hear, and read is believable. They hear, read, and act out stories themselves that are make-believe.

      Some things are make-believe intentionally and some things are mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. And lots of people think make-believe things are real or that real things are make believe.

      There are lots of occasions for presenting such information to kids in age appropriate ways with simple examples.
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    Oct 25 2012: Andres, I do agree with you on much of what you have said. Marketing does work best when it triggers emotions and all marketers know this.

    That said, we are ALL consumers. Even Marketers are. We still need to buy things and we typically buy what we need or what we want. If we want something we don't need - is that the marketers fault OR is it our issue for being weak?

    So the education required here (for adults and children alike) is not just about how marketing really works - it's about due diligence and self control (among a few other fundamental but complex forms of logic)!

    We will always need to buy things. That won't ever go away. So of COURSE marketing is going to live on forever. But we (as consumers) do need to assess what we are exposed to better and we need to check in with ourselves about whether its RIGHT for us or not.

    We are (as a global community) in a world of debt. Why - because we buy more than we need and we need more than we can afford. AND we have very little education on HOW to change this.

    Is that REALLY the fault of marketing?

    P.S. I do take issue with some of the comments below. Saying that all marketers are liars, scammers, profiteers etc. is very accusatory. Even if few and far between, there are actually some marketers on the planet that do what they do because they believe in the companies they do it for AND actually care about those who would likely buy their products.

    P.P.S. An ethical marketer see's marketing as NOT a way to scam people out of their money for a crappy product but a way to educate consumers better so that they can make informed decisions.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hello Cijaye,

      Thank you for your comment,

      I agree with you that we should exert personal responsibility and educate ourselves in order to be less "weak" towards the marketeers message. But I would contend that personal responsibility can only go so far, specially in cases when people do not have the means or the time to get educated regarding everything they are being told by advertisement

      Our time is finite. And given the chance, I would rather spend it learning science, or playing music, and not researching whether a particular brand of electronic devices will provide me with that 1% "differentiation" that will make my life "so much better" than the competing products could

      So it is an a sense an assault on people's, to force them to spend now a large proportion of their time weeding through oceans of information, which is mostly useless from a survival or personal growth perspective, in order to decide which products to buy or whether to buy a product in the first place. There is a misconception i find frequently, that is that if choice is good, more choices is always better... Time is limited though

      I concur with you, and I do not intend this discussion to be an indictment against marketeers. Not all of them are scammers and profiteers. I have tried to turn the discussion from that accusatory stance, to one where we can find the right balance between somebody trying to sell a product, and somebody blatantly lying by concealing relevant information, in order to produce an unnecesary state of dissatisfaction on the "consumers"

      By the way, for some reason I do not like the classification of consumers in the economic sense. We were humans long before there was such a thing as economics, and yes we consumed resources from the environment, but there was no need to promote consumption as a way of life, as i think there is today

      I agree with your last sentence. Giving relevant information to educate people is definitely an ethical way to promote a product

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        Oct 29 2012: Great response Andres, and you did make an excellent point that I too should have brought up. The word consumer is an "unfriendly" classification. I use it simply to group those who buy things together - but the reality is - I too very much dislike the term.

        Long story short though - your overall concept of educating youth at a SCHOOL level about how this all works and how they can protect ourselves is very smart and in many ways (I believe) quite necessary.

        P.S. I understand your points about the time drains involved with due diligence, but because I am often one that helps business recover from seriously bad decisions that resulted from NOT doing due diligence, I see that time as quite important (at least for larger investments)
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    Oct 19 2012: The last paragraph of your narrative asks the question: "Should we include in a kids education: at schools, in church sermons, at dinner table conversations, an explanation of what advertisement is and why it works? What would be an argument against teaching this?"

    I have no argument against teaching it. But it won't work until the adults doing the teaching learn it first. THEY are the ones who need to understand it and believe in it. They are the ones who will be doing the teaching to the children.

    If anybody, as an adult here, believes they totally understand it and are NOT a victim of advertising, I would have to ask...

    When was the last time you bought something because you were getting somethng "for FREE!" with what you bought?

    "Only $19.95! But if you act NOW, we'll send you a SECOND one absolutely FREE!!! (just pay Shipping and Handling)."


    My favorite one nowadays is, "Buy this car at 0% Interest!" Then the small...very, very small...print explains, "a fee of $16.37 per $1000 financed will be added to the monthly payment...."

    Gotta teach the adults there is no such thing a "free" before the adults can teach the kids.
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      Oct 20 2012: You make a really good point Rick. I would add we just need to keep ads away from the kids and it's a family responsibility, not an invitation to change the industry. The industry pretty much goes their own way. They are only interested in how many people are getting exposed. The math to sell the ads to industry is just a lot of smoke and mirrors, but it works and it's a write off on business expenses. We are stuck with it and.... It does serve a real purpose. But, for smart people, it's just a big bother that interrupts the story line if you watch TV or, on face book something you can't seem to control in your very pretty area of the Internet. People are absolutely gaga about facebook, even is the stock is falling..... something else is coming soon the a computer screen near you.... I just haven't found out what it is yet. What ever it is that will replace face book has got to be real hot.
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      Oct 29 2012: Indeed Rick, you get astutely to one of the main points of my question... Adults need to educate themselves first, it is easy to deceive ourselves into believing that we "understand" our subconscious decision making process

      And I must concur, there is no such a thing as a free lunch within the economic system of exchange we live in.

  • Oct 19 2012: Andres, I deeply fear if we do not educate our kids about the chicken hawks who wish to debt trap, coerce, and subliminally turn us into mindless consumers civilization will implode. Marketing campaigns aimed at teaching children that they are only worthy of respect if they own a certain object or sport a certain logo have been around forever. They are important in a society like ours that wishes to create an in group that serves capitalist ideals as their master and punishes those who are either underprivileged or see the indoctrination occurring and do not partake.

    American credit card debt is a brutal problem, but just one example of many to show that corporations are reaping the benefits of well funded marketing campaigns. What would be beneficial to marketing and corporations? well the goal is to keep people stuck on the present moment, to get them to give in to impulse and buy something that has been associated with natural wants and desires about social standings or member of the opposite sex. This is far easier in children, as Freud points out children by nature wish to have their impulses satisfied and quickly as they have not fully formed a superego. Theres another aspect I think that would be beneficial to capitalism, that is of course narcissism. If you even take a quick peak at whats considered a narcissistic feature then you know that, people hopelessly stuck to unrealistic fantasies of power and fame is good for business, not in the long term, but certainly in the short term. Other aspects include exploitation of others, requiring constant positive reinforcement from others, often envious. This is a dream come true for marketing campaigns as well as unbridled capitalism.

    Andres, it starts young when in school with external reinforcements, or treats, like one would give a dog are used for reward. So my answer is yes, we need to start teaching our kids even younger about marketing strategies and it's harmful and mind warping effects.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi Brian, thank you for your comment

      Yes, from the way i posed the question you probably can tell that i am no big fan of the way advertisement is imposed on kids.

      Now, even though they share much of their methods across the board, I don't think that all advertisement is equal.

      For example, i take no issue with ads by non profit groups asking you to support poor children in latin america. True, I do not believe everything they say, nor do i think that is the most efficient way to make resources available to poor children. I still feel empathy and rage when i see those images (which is one of the intentions of the ad, i am sure), I just don't follow through by calling the 800 number with my credit card. But when i hear political campaign advertisement, or when i see some of the ads used to sell toys or clothes for kids, i cannot help but wonder if there was any other objective than to leave the audience with a deep (and mostly false) dissatisfaction of the current state of affairs

      It is true indeed that a more educated population is usually at odds with any -ism that relies on sheeplike obedience, or on partial feeling of freedom and choice. I do not mean to teach my kids how advertisement works as a way to topple capitalism. But it would be naive to think that there would be no effect if teaching it is successful. Hopefully people in the coming generation will learn how to refrain from spending so much, that necessarily will mean a slow down in economic growth. And i see nothing wrong with that.

  • Nov 11 2012: I learned all your points about advertisement in a public school in 8th grade. I'm pretty sure learning it made me smarter.
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    Nov 2 2012: it works on kids which is why advertisers shamelessly aim at them.

    these days, we are fairly media savvy and I think a lot of advertising fails to work on adults.

    as a teacher, i always make a point of questioning advertising messages with my kids (7 & 8 year olds). it's easy to do because most advertising is a thin veneer over the reality and once you start delving and thinking about what they are saying and promising, it starts to fall apart.

    you wouldn't teach this if you want to perpetuate rampant consumerism.

    if your brain is engaged and skeptical of advertising motives then advertising fails.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Scott,

      I agree with the point you make... somehow we adults can cope with it (or we should be able to), but kids do not yet have the tools to assimilate the advertising message in a critical way.

      So we must 1) limit the input while kids are still not able to process it and 2) teach and remind them how to process the message

      Definitely, an engaged and skeptical brain is one of the goals of this teaching

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    Nov 2 2012: Hi Andres, Here's an interesting white paper study on TV and mobile device studies on how the industry is looking for zinger, catchy way of putting ads in the faces of viewers:

    In another post I told you about the difference in the way the adverstiment industry was handling the falloff in consumer spending by pointing to a tv show called "Revolution". Well, things have changed a lot.

    In the preview series, the ads were scaled way down to about a min of ad for each 7 min of storyline.

    Now with the second series because the show scored a 4:1 rating, the ads were increased to an average of 3 min of ads to each 6 min of storyline.

    I've followed many sci-Fi tv shows and most of the follow this ratio of 7:1 in the preview series and then progress to the 6:3 ratio.

    As a result, I have quit watching it bcause I can't stand TV ads and I'm back to Netfilx. I will know more about how they respond when and if the third series comes along.

    What I'm seeing overall is a restlessness in the industry to deal with the issue of Internet TV moving into the market and how they can best offer their customers product coverage. Most of the numbers are indicating a trend towards less TV watching by people who desire uninterrupted storyline. Of course this cannot be allowed because the Ad industry is dependent on the consumers to view their ads in order to sell time to their customers. Another method the industry uses is to host DIY and selling homes on TV. My wife is a big fan of such shows and is one of their most prized customers. :)

    In the big picture I see the industry is using tracking data garnished from the internet to deduce how they can best keep our eyes on their customers products. It is becoming a war of sorts. The old ways are dying off and no one really has the knowledge to judge how the consumers will react to new ideas about advertisement. The internet is both causing the problem and a projected source of impoverishment.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi John,

      You bring up a great point related to this conversation, our privacy.

      You are right, the advertisement industry relies on "impressions" (any instance when they can put an image or keyword into somebody's brain)

      I don't think that there is much consideration given to the right of people not to have their brains inundated with these "impressions". I understand that if i don't want to watch tv ads i probably need to pay a fee, same if i want a book readers with no ads.

      But if i want a walk in the street with no ads, i am out of luck. There is no way to pay (nor i think we should have to pay) for a street free of advertisements

      The other side of the coin, as you have highlighted, is the tracking of people's behavior, and the subsequent commercialization of this tracking information. I think that individuals should be empowered to decide when to see or hear an ad, and when to share or not information about their behavior.

      Thanks as usual for your contribution, John!

  • Nov 2 2012: Yeah,we have to, for there are too much ads passing "bad" information to the younger generation if you do not expain to the children how the ad words. For example, in recently years, Abercrombie & Fitch ads always apply half-naked men, so we must tell our children something about that
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes I was discussing this with some friends recently when taking about a topic that is in the political discourse lately (at least here in the USA), which is rape and abortion.

      We agreed that we cannot expect a decline in the prevalence of rape if our culture makes a business out of portraying women in a denigrating way.

      It is not too hard to understand why humans react to sexual images, in particular why is it that males are more prone to react than females, as it has its roots in our evolution, even before there were humans

      But I think that we can use this knowledge to arm our kids with tools to be able to better deal with these reactions when they come

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    Oct 26 2012: Andres, If we accept that parents are teachers also, then the right thing to do would be to practice what we wish our children to learn.

    If we seperate the WANTS away from the NEEDS and so label them, then the message would be taught to the children.

    Example being the strongest lesson to give them.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Oct 29 2012: Excellent points Bob,

      We do teach by example, not by our words.

      And how important it is to teach the difference between wants and needs!

  • Oct 25 2012: As Seth Godin says "All marketeers tell stories (are liars)". I knew about two hundred of them in my life and that's a fact.
    In my opinion kids should know that asap in order to not become a compulsive consumer puppet.
  • Oct 23 2012: marketing strategy has always been a part of the community the corporate advertising representative wants to not think about. just blindly smile wen the commercial is on , then drop everything and go buy there product.
    i think we need to go 1 step further than just telling them, we need to prevent these profiteerst from praying on our youth. the things my kid eats is not subject of some mass marketing campaign. or at least it should not be! and we really dont need our kids eating pollinuclear nonactritive cereal varnish so the flakes don't get soggy. do we get the ability to take over the commercial time with household announcements " this Friday grand return of WASH DAY !! yes kids bring all your clothing to mom on WASH DAY and like magic there it is on your bed later that day all folded and clean... terms and conditions pending school reports and personal acts of manerious conduct may apply see dad for any discrepancies or complaints."
    and other tidbits of things we want our kids to think about wen they need them. the ability to control the marketing pumping on to our kids is staggering. but wen i was a kid ok new bike i wanted was $100 and i got like 1 um every 2 or so years. my son wants a 2nd nintendo DS3 something but it has more bells and whistles all i know is its $200 and the games are $50 - $80 a pop. going to the movies use to be well for me under $10 2 movies and soda and candy. whats that now $120 if your lucky. and all the marketing research analysis's projecting just how much to charge to keep people buying it and replacing it as soon as soon as they want them to. and now they are trying to make it illegal for people to sell things used ?? what trying to make it so i cant sell something in a free open market America? if i cant have a tag sale were gunna have a problem here.
    yes we need to teach the kids but we need to stop the people doing it so we will not have to. i say no marketing target audiences under age 18, talk to mom n dad!!
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      Oct 29 2012: Hello Todd,

      I agree with you here. We should go one step further. Sometimes i would venture to say (my libertarian friends will gasp here) that governments should regulate the advertising industry in ways that protect both children and uneducated consumers.

      As I have stated before, I am a big fan of personal responsibility, and more than once I have heard people say that it is the "consumer"'s responsibility to get educated about how advertisement works,

      I beg to differ. I know of many cases where perfectly decent people do not have the access to the information, or the time to educate themselves, or both, and in those cases i think that there should be other ways (yes, even government sponsored) to make this information available

  • Oct 20 2012: Is our duty as parents to teach our kids about advertising. But to teach our kids about it we must also know how and why it works. Advertising is a business, and its job is to deliver a message to the possible consumers, so they buy that product, and the maker of that product can make money. Even if the product does not fulfill our expectations after a while. This emotion of having this brand new "acquisition" vanishes very soon. In my country there is a "smartphone fever" among teens. I have nothing against smartphones. Some of this kids do whatever they have to just to be in the "smartphone orbit". When i ask one of them, what you do with your smartphone? Answers are:,
    2. make phone callas,
    3. listen to music,
    4. play games.
    There are many non-elite phones that can perform the same tasks. But if you dont have "the one" you are not "in". When you market a product you must give the consumers a reason to have this product. And with kids is easier. Just tell them that if they dont have this they are not even with the rest of his friends.
    I have nothing against smartphones or other types of gadgets in fact i use some of them. I am using this just as an example. It also happens with clothes shoes etc.
    If we teach our kids about advertising we are helping them to be smart consumers in the future.
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    Oct 20 2012: why not . everything which is true.we should all teach our children .
    children should know everything that they may face in theirlife .and learn eveything ,regardless of vironlen.the more information they control ,the smarter they will be .if you dont want to make your kids a dull like a monkey or is your duty to teach,
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    Oct 20 2012: My grand kids don't get to see much advertisement. I filter everything with scripts, etc on the computer and they only watch kids movies and cartoons. I spend a lot of time with them creating paper stuff and making toys out of boxes. They are learning to read and write (type) at an early age, (two 1/2, going on 16, girl) and (four 1/2 going on 25, boy).

    I hope it lasts and the only advertizement they get exposed to is on their paths to here and there. They are busy hands on kids. I don't think anyone in our family, other than my wife, really watches too much TV on the networks these days. We usually do the Netflix and Library.

    I have noticed some changes in the ad industry with the new TV series coming out. My wife turned me on to "Revolution" and they have very short, ads, less than two min. each, in between the story. I'm starting to notice that he ads are becoming shorter. I think there is some serious competition with the Internet TV going on here. The big problem for the industry is how to put ads in people's face with a growing population seeking privacy on the internet. On my forum "The village people" ti's the number one idea..... Privacy from Google spiders and other search engines. Here on TED, your posts are feed To Google with all you personal information and put on the internet for anyone to Google.

    The simplest way to stop tracking and having ads constantly put in your face is: Turn off cookies on your browser.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi John!

      It is refreshing to read that you take precautions to keep your grand kids away from advertisement. I commend your effort. I try to do the same with mine, blocking ads and disabling bunches of unneeded web "features"

      Sad part is, the advertisement industry has had a lead of several decades in terms of research on psychology, cognition, behaviorism, and more generally neurosciences. We could all use that information without getting from it only the few applications they decide to pick and chose

      I want to assume that we all here on TED are aware of the open audience of all our posts. It is always good to reiterate it John, as not many might keep that in mind when expressing their opinions here

      Thanks for the web-savy pointers. I would add the suggestion of using browser extensions like adblock, better privacy, no-script, and https-everywhere; as well as programs like privoxy and tor and the tweaking of your hosts file if you want to remain somewhat in control of the information that your web browser gives away for free

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        Oct 29 2012: Turning off cookies does away with just about all the ad problems.

        That's the big secret behind most ad blockers.

        How do you know the ads exist in the first place if you don't request the page they are located on?
        With some pages, they "Post" a cookie to your browser and request affermation. If they are not a secure server where validation is necessary or a website that really wants to track your whereabouts, then turning off cookies could be a problem if you need information on the website.

        However, If you know before hand how important the site is for you, cookies can be made exceptions for and cookies exchanged.

        With the tracker programs, they get the cookie and note every time a site makes a request for your cookie. If you are accepting cookies, the exchange is made and the tracker site is updated about where you are. They can't just follow your IP address around the net. That would require a lot of pings and inferences about where you might be, based on existing information. They can only tag you with a cookie and hope you respond. If yo don't respond, they haven't a clue where you are, unless a reporting site send them a cookie alerting them to the fact you are on their site. If they don't do this because it would require overhead on their computer, The tracker doesn't know where you are or can only know it interminably.

        It's easy to figure out. Load one of the tracker add ons and look at who's tracking you, then turn cookies off and look again, after clearing your cookie folder. You appear to have disappeared and no one is tracking you.

        It's all about the cookies and site reporting.
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          Oct 29 2012: Ah John,

          Turning off cookies goes a long way... but many websites are completely crippled when you don't allow cookies... and once you allow even session cookies, they can be stored along with your ip address for later reference.

          The reason why i add other tools like adblock and changing my hosts files, is that in that way you don't even get to fetch ad images from the internet, so not only they are never displayed, but there is never any record on the image servers that your browser requested such images.

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    Oct 19 2012: I interpret your question to mean, "Should we teach kids how we are unconsciously manipulated by advertising into buying things?" I would do this by creating a game out of watching television ads and trying to figure out how the marketer is trying to manipulate the viewer, there by reducing the power of these ads to work on our unconscious. Another game would be to make up your own ads to try to manipulate people. My local elementary school did an art project to teach this.

    If we did this, would kids no longer want the unhealthy cereal with their favorite cartoon character on the box, and maybe rather eat the healthy cereal with the boring rain forest picture on it? I rather doubt it - we adults are happy to be manipulated into buying a beer simply because there's a picture of a pretty girl next to the beer in an ad. Logically we know the pretty girl doesn't come with the beer (usually!), but ads do not target logical thinking.

    You say recently the ad industry targeted kids, but the ad industry has been targeting kids throughout history. Joe Camel is probably one of the biggest examples - back when the tobacco industry was literally worried about recruiting enough children to replace the dying adults. There is evidence for this that was brought in the court case against RJ Reynolds for targeting children. If you want to teach kids about advertising, I would start with the lesson of Joe Camel, and talk about how many thousands of children it is estimated would still be alive today without that ad campaign that targeted kids.

    In the advertising world, we use a term called "brand lift" to measure the financial impact an advertising campaign has on *brand value* - we compete as ad agencies based on which agency will give you the biggest brand lift for your ad dollar. An understanding of advertising should include the concept of brand value.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi Danger,

      Yes i think that in a general sense that is another way to pose my question.

      Sadly it is true, many adults will still buy the beer thanks to the ad with the pretty girl, or the peaceful beach. It is harder to educate adults, that is why I am mostly worried about kids. And in fairness, it is not always the fault of the adults, as they never had available any information, throughout their education, that would better prepare them to resist the subconscious reactions that the simple image of a pretty girl can trigger.

      I know that the kids still look more favorably to the cereal that has the cartoon character on them, rather than the plain box, but I take every chance i can (when i go grocery shopping with my kids), to explain them how their reaction is triggered by the fact that they like cartoons, not by the fact that one brand of cereal is better than the other. And they now find it funny that there seems to be a rule: when the cereal, or any other product, comes with a carton character image, almost invariably it costs a bit more.

      You are correct, the amount of ads in general has skyrocketed in the last 30 years. Independently of the age target. But I think that nowadays, kids 1 throuhg 13 end up watching much more tv (and playing online games, or online videos) than adults. So i still contend that they are more exposed than adults when comparing with the past

      I think I understand brand value as you are using it here, seems to me that it refers to the subjective "value" assigned to a brand by individuals. Wouldn't it be useful too to pair that concept up with a parallel "brand value" defined as the real value a product brings into an individuals life?

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        Oct 29 2012: I found this question of yours quite interesting: " Wouldn't it be useful too to pair that concept up with a parallel "brand value" defined as the real value a product brings into an individuals life?"

        The fascinating thing, is that advertising by itself will make you experience more pleasure from that product. This has been shown in fMRI brain scans of test subjects. For example, simply by telling you that a wine is five times the price that it actually is, your brain will literally experience more pleasure from that wine. Same wine, but your brain literally experiences it as more pleasurable.

        So I think the concept of brand value as I've used it, and the concept of brand value as you propose, are intertwined in ways we can't separate.

        The way I use brand value is the way the marketing/advertising industry uses it: It's a hard dollar value you assign to your brand. The definition is: "The value premium that a company realizes from a product with a recognizable name as compared to its generic equivalent."

        The #1 global brand in the world in 2012, last I checked, was CocaCola, worth $77 Billion dollars. That is the value of just the brand, not the company! Drinking CocaCola makes people actually enjoy their beverage more than drinking someone else's identical brown fizzy sugar water, such is the power of that brand.
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      Oct 29 2012: You are correct Danger, advertisement can improve the pleasure you derive from consuming a product, but it is also a fact that consuming cocaine can activate pleasure centers in our brains, perhaps more strongly than consuming these products. And i am even less of a fan of cocaine than i am of advertisement

      Let me rephrase my question then, as my intended sense was a bit different: wouldn't it be useful to teach kids the distinction between needs and wants, and within that framework assign a "brand value" based on the real value that a brand brings in satisfying a person needs?

      I know i am going down a different path here, I just wanted to clarify the sense of my question...

      Thanks for responding!
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      Oct 29 2012: I love the ad-game idea!
      I tell my kid that nothing that is advertised is worth buying.
      If it had value, then word of mouth would spread the news.
      My kid now comes to me to point out kick-backs in operation in the video-game review press. That's the new game he's invented - spot the exploiter.

      I am a bit spoiled. i manufacture a quality product. I've had to close my order book - the word-of-mouth dynamic is almost impossible to avoid and I've had to go into virtual hiding - less advertising for me!
      I larf my head off when companies spam me with offers of how to raise my google-profile - which I've studiously gotten into the last page.
      Sometimes I reply to them to tease them with their own superflous meaningless existences. But that only invotes more spam ;)
      I was once in the retail biz - Coca Cola(Amatil) represent the 3 most sold items in the world - 750ml, 1litre and 350ml. It is generally sold as a loss leader - because if you don't have it in stock, people won't come in the store - Coke and bananas - you need bananas for a credible produce dept.
      Coke is full of caffein these days. I was told it once had cocain as well - it was sold as a tonic.
      Smoking is bad for you .. right?
  • Oct 18 2012: Yes.

    My father taught us very early that advertising is almost always misleading, and never tells the whole truth. Today marketing people will say anything. Children must learn that they are almost constantly barraged with manipulative messages. Their best defense is awareness.
  • Oct 18 2012: There is a radio show on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) that I listen to regularly called "The Age of Persuasion". This is a weekly broadcast about the art of advertising
    Taken from the about...
    The Age of Persuasion explores the countless ways marketers permeate your life, from media, art, and language, to politics, religion, and fashion

    The defense against this would be critical thinking skills. This is of course, the study of what is true, partially true, and sometimes true or bull. It is currently only formally included in graduate courses that I know of.
    It really should be taught in kindergarten and every grade above that.

    The danger in that is from unexpected side effects like a smarter electorate, smarter investors unwilling to believe current financial "theory" and the general decline and eventual elimination of opinion polls during elections.

    On the other hand, the quality and sophistication of advertisements would be expected to increase.
    I'm not sure that’s a bad thing.
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      Oct 18 2012: Hello Gordon, thank you for your response and for the pointer to The Age of Persuasion. I will be checking it soon!

      I cannot agree more. A critical thinking is key to the survival of future generations

      In a sense i do not mind with the quality and sophistication of advertisement increasing, what i don't agree with is when some facts are deliberately concealed in order to achieve an end, particularly when the objective is to induce a state of dissatisfaction with a kid's current status

      I know that the human brain and the human genome is not likely to change at the same rate, so our brains will probably still work (at a physiological level) pretty much the same in the near future. What we are definitely capable of changing is the way we use our brain (i.e. our education and culture)

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    Oct 17 2012: This was part of the eighth grade English curriculum in public schools in California in the 60s. (I have an absurd memory for things like this. The teacher was named Ms. Argerio).

    There is nothing complicated or controversial, I think, in teaching and learning about modern culture or forms of persuasive writing and imagery which we encounter in our daily lives.
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      Oct 17 2012: Thanks for your answer Fritzie,

      Your memory is indeed impressive. Do you think you learned something from that? Did it change the way you saw, say, tv, or PR-speak later in your life?

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        Oct 17 2012: I am very good at sniffing out advertising gimmicks and thinly veiled efforts to convince people of neglected needs that they ought to buy goods or services to satisfy. Plugs from all manner of "coaches" are an incessant, ubiquitous example.
        (Note: I do know some excellent coaches but also some who don't know as much as your random neighbor would offer for free)

        Here is a NYTimes article about the FTC's advertsing literacy curriculum for grades 3-6, I think:
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          Oct 17 2012: Wonderful, thank you for that link!
  • Nov 16 2012: @Andres

    Shame replies stop at a certain thread depth... anyway sorry if I misunderstood what you were trying to say, I don't think it came across clearly.
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      Nov 16 2012: Indeed the format sometimes does not help Bob... No worries, I do not take offense with any of your comments, I have learned from the postings you have shared and i concur with many of these opinions... I have perhaps a less pessimistic view of people than that of Chris Hedges, but that could be because i have never been in a war zone. I do however, admire his work and his courage in talking about topics that most either consciously ignore or have never heard of.

      I guess my question is framed in that, a bit more optimistic view that people can still learn and change their lives and that of their kids... Education, to me is the key to a brighter future, regardless of what happens to my own generation.

      I will always be glad to post at length trying to clarify my views, so you can ask away, and as you can see, i also sometimes misunderstand other people's words, but you will always see me coming back with clarifying questions

      thanks for the points that you have added to the discussion so far. They have added value and have expanded my knowledge in new directions!

      • Nov 16 2012: The problem I see with having faith in people, is that people usually only care about certain pet issues and issues related to survival. Not only that, the enlightenment was wrong about how the human brain works. Human reasoning doesn't work on rationality. So although 'life will go on' there's no guarantee human beings will effectively challenge power. (i.e. reach a critical mass) because of the biological requirements of intelligence + time+ energy, etc. Demographics is destiny, if intelligent people have fewer children and dumber ones have more that means change becomes difficult due to numbers.

        Consider: There is truly no technical reason to have homeless people even existing in a modern developed country, it's socially tolerated/enforced problem akin to slavery (a cultural/value artifact).

        (somewhat related)
        Just thought I'd pass him along, one of my favs for 'cutting the bs'.

        David Wolff (short)

        Full video

        He makes a lot of excellent points IMHO probably one of the few people who speaks in plain language and demystifies 'complex' problems.

        And when I say we have to move away from money/capitalism, it's not that I have a solution in hand it's just something that is going to have to be done over the long term since we can't afford to continue to go on as it is right now in the 21st century.

        I'm not a big believer in ideology without understanding, you have to understand how the universe works first, then you can start to ask questions about the sustainability and stability of a given behavior given the energy/resource/biological requirements.

        Then you can talk about bringing 'values' back into discussion, morality, values, principles can only be understood if you understand how the universe works first and whats realizable given those limitations.
  • Nov 15 2012: Andres, are you asking if we as parents should be teaching our children about marketing, advertising and PR, -OR- if we as a society should be teaching these topics to children in the public education system? I would say both are important. In my opinion, it should be a part of our children's Social Studies program in school, much like how we teach basic concepts of history early in grade school and repeat those topics in a deeper manner as they advance through high school. In our modern society, our children are constantly bombarded and influenced by marketing messages imbedded into their children's television, dvd and now internet programming, that it behooves us to make them aware of the nature of marketing. As a computer software technologist I see marketing as plugging directly into the API's of the brain to 'make us do things' (such as purchase, vote, believe and behave a certain way).

    My children are 11 and 10 now, and since they were 5 and 4, I started to explain marketing to them. I was prompted to have this discussion with them because every time they saw a commercial for the 'Kia Sedona minivan' on 'Nick Jr.', they would run to my wife and I ask to buy it due to all of the safety and kid friendly attributes of the car. I was shocked at their retention of the product features and ability to relay them back to us. This was beyond toys and I was worried about how they were being influenced.

    I explained marketing/advertising to them not in as an insidious evil or in a cynical manner, but in a more factual way of how marketers have to sell a product and they have various 'tricks' (methods or "API's") at their disposal to influence potential buyers. I was amazed at how at a young age they started evaluating and discussing each commercial they watched and how discerning they could be in picking apart the messaging and influence tactics.

    It would be tough to add this topic to a school curriculum, but it can definitely be taught by parents.
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      Nov 15 2012: Hi Asif,

      I thank you for your comments and for sharing your experience with your kids.

      It is not surprising that you clearly got the gist of my question, being that i too work with computers and sometimes think in those terms.

      Indeed my question was intentionally twofold. It sounds like an either or, but it is not, it is more of a challenge to adults.

      I wouldn't have any issue with this being in the curriculum of public elementary school, but i know that some people are more skeptic about school than i am.

      So for the people who would prefer to keep it out of the classroom, the question is: "do you know enough about advertisement and why it works in our brains to be able to share it with your kids?" similarly, because i also realize that many people learn from others in their religious congregations, i would ask, do religious leaders know enough to explain this? would they be wiling to share such information to their audiences? Here i would expect some push back, but so far i have not heard about anyone picking up that part of the question

      Regarding adding this to school curriculum, just for perspective... if a school board in Dover was able to add information on intelligent design, at least for a brief period of time, and if it took a full trial to remove it, I would think that it would not be as complicated to add the workings of advertisement to the curriculum, and i wonder if someone would put it on trial to be removed

      • Nov 16 2012: Andres, to your comment in the last paragraph "... it would not be as complicated to add the workings of advertisement to the curriculum...", I agree. If there was a thoughtfully created curriculum that was balanced, fair, realistic, scientific and interesting to the students, I think it could be inserted into a good social studies (grade school) or business/consumer ed (high school) curriculum. From one of your other commentators below, it seems like it already has in some school districts.
  • Nov 14 2012: On the power of PR... I'll comment here: Take the videogame industry, I've watched the videogame industry over the last ten years use PR techniques to steal videogame ownership from gamers. See this mans website here:

    This man (gabe newell of valve/steam) and many in the industry have successfully taken computer programs hostage on the other side of the internet and made them "check in" with their servers (which would have been impossible in a pre internet era, you would GET the software and wouldn't need permission to use it).

    If you look at a site like reddit, you see gamers CELEBRATING having their games sabotaged by a gaming corporation that uses it's "digital rights management" (hostage software) to data mine kids and adults who play videogames for "business purposes" (how better to spin PR and exploit them for money).

    The videogame industry has redefined broken "get permission" hostage software (games) as a benefit and have young kids and adults alike celebrate being exploited, that's a PR miracle.

    Diablo 3 (a game that cuts a chunk out of the software and has it run on servers on the other side of the internet) sold 10 million copies, thats how dumb most people really are they just don't give a crap that they are exploited because their emotions are involved - they've been taught to love their exploitation.

    Same thing happens with "MMO's" which is just code for DRM'd role playing games (which used to be single player and you owned them). Corporations have successfully spun them as a "Service" (which technologically from a software standpoint they don't have to be). Paying monthly to play one single videogame (15/month) after you just bought the game for $60 up front, is another PR miracle.
    Not only did you PAY for the game, you PAY for the corporation to exploit you and you like it because you are so addicted (it has 8-10 million players still after almost 10 years)
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      Nov 14 2012: Thank you for taking the time to provide a more in-depth explanation Bob,

      While I may not agree with all of it, i do see its value and I will do some reading based on the references you have provided.

      My point i guess tries to jump one level down... The actual mechanism that makes people fall prey to manipulation is within our brains, and most of it is not learned, but relies on innate abilities (or disabilities) of our brains to be aware (or not) when we are manipulated.

      Awareness goes a long way to reduce the impact, but we cannot change our brain physiology, so we are stuck with having to train every future generation on how to deal with those inefficiencies

      I will be back with more comments once i have done some more reading. Thanks again for the pointers

      • Nov 15 2012: The problem Andres is without the internet they would be forced to sell you the software stand alone, i.e. the only reason they can get away with this is because of technology.

        (you should read this by Thomas Babbington Macaulay)

        Of course you'd 'disagree' since you are a capitalist, you'd accept anything that exploits others for profit because you have no understanding of copyright law and how it has been infinitely expanded to take away the public domain. Older games should fall into the public domain (source code, etc) but they never do, they are locked up under monopolist copyright law.

        Unless the developer has enough power in the relationship and is kind enough to release the source code.

        Things like this are impossible for most games:

        So you have tonnes of old games that can't be fixed or updated and are confiscated by capitalists. There is no software repair industry because of copyright (monopoly rights) which you blindly protect. You come off as just another ignorant american IMHO. Which you couch in 'reasonable' sounding language because you are just so alarmingly uninformed and unconsciously pro capitalist underneath it all.

        Diablo 1 + 2 did not have to get permission from the nanny corporation to be used, they could be modified and used without the internet because people you know PAID FOR IT. Diablo 3 introduced SINGLE PLAYER LAG (latency) that is *breaking* the game on purpose, making it inferior because game corporations desire total authoritarian control and don't give a shit about the right of gamers to own their software.

        Corporations now use contract and law to do an end run around individual and civil rights (your rights to own the products you buy).

        Gaming culture and the ability of fans to update and fix their old game is stolen from them and the fact you'd "disagree", is just wrong.
      • Nov 15 2012: Google: "Diablo 3 real money auction house" for a nice surprise.
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          Nov 15 2012: Hello Bob,

          I did not disagree because i am a capitalist or because i would accept anything that exploit others for profit. I hope you meant that as a generalization, but if you meant that as a description of my own worldview you can go back and read some my opinions and that might drive a different conclusion

          I am very aware of the problem with patent and copyright law, and like you, i am always weary when businesses change their model in order to add more strings attached to their products. Diablo 3 is just one example of an increasing trend

          Now, regarding online games, I can share with you the experience i have with my kids. They do own console games and some pc games, and from time to time we do the experiment of turning the internet modem off and trying to use both computers and console games as usual.

          It is eye opening for them to see how many programs (even simple programs in the computer) are crippled when they are not allowed to "call back home" behind our backs.

          And their response is usually one of disgust with the program/game makers: "why do they need us to be connected?" is they immediate question. I usually leave the question lingering in, for them to ponder later

  • Nov 14 2012: Most people want to be told what to do, what to think, and how to live. That is one of the big reasons religion, propaganda and advertising is so successful.

    Most people are stupid, and it takes energy, courage and the ability to withstand pain to live genuinely in accordance with ones principles. Most people are weak, fickle, easily manipulated and greedy.

    There is no solution here because human beings are just monkeys with slightly more intelligence then those in zoo's.

    One doesn't even have to look far on TED, most TEDsters worldview revolves around money, buying and selling and the ideology of capitalism. You think within that narrow point of view and push off anything that you deem is 'not realistic'. That is group think and propaganda, if it's not against the laws of nature then it's achievable. Imagine if slaves said "there's nothing we can do, we'll always be slaves" or that disabled people never fought for disability rights, or that blacks never fought for equality.
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      Nov 14 2012: Hi Bob, thanks for your answer.

      I am not sure how to interpret your comment. Sounds pessimistic, which can be interpreted to mean that you think teaching kids how advertisement works is a lost cause. But i might have been confused, so please feel free to correct me if i did misinterpret your words.

      I disagree with your assessment. I think that stupidity can be relative, it can be partial, and it can also be temporary. I don't think there is such thing as absolute stupidity. And while I share with you the opinion that most people are easily manipulated, i fail to see it as a consequence of weakness. A bit of ignorance can be cured with a bit of education.

      Now, i am not sure if you are referring to my world view, or to the worldview of the average person who posts and votes on reddit (which by the way is a pretty lousy sampling if you are trying to imply it is representative of the public in general). But i can assure you that my whole world view does not revolve around money.

      At the end of your comment you seem to give some encouragement, "if it's not against the laws of nature then it's achievable", should I interpret those words as encouragement to teach kids how advertisement works?

      I guess i ended up a bit confused. Do you care to clarify/elaborate?

      • Nov 14 2012: The problem is the way we value things is wrong, for instance we ALL KNOW that capitalism has serious problems with pollution and environment. We all know that most all of us will not pay 'the true cost' of environmental damage we are doing. We all know this in the back of our minds despite our naive belief in the 'magic' of technology, technology is not going to cure a civilizational sickness.

        The truth is the money/capitalist paradigm is something that has to be rethought and moved away from but most people think anything that is not free market capitalism is 'socialism' its just more proof that people are so afraid of critical thinking and what those around them think, they are not interested in the truth. We'd rather stick our heads in the sand, go on watching tv/ted talks and have people TALK about doing something then rather rolling up our sleeves and divesting ourselves from the way of life we've now built which most intelligent people agree is "not sustainable". It's not that we need "green capitalism" it's that what our "civilization" values is just INCORRECT at a fundamental level. We don't put things like solving problems at the top of the agenda because everyones 'looking out for himself' we are deeply idiotic and immature at a fundamental level as a species.

        Think about some advanced civilization looking back on this period of human history: "You humans can send people to the moon, but not find homes for people, and it isn't for a lack of homes".

        We have empty buildings who's water/sewer maintenance is being paid for by billionaires which could be used (in a sane society) to alleviate suffering, if I was a billionaire and I had huge mansions and 2nd and 3rd homes just not being used I could never live with myself. But that is not how 99% of mankind thinks lets be honest, even Bill and Buffet "hero capitalists" do as little as possible... (character limit reached)
      • Nov 14 2012: Socrates figured out what we were doing wrong 2000 years ago (and I'm sure many smart humans before that).

        Knowledge (from wikipedia)

        One of the best known sayings of Socrates is "I only know that I know nothing". The conventional interpretation of this remark is that Socrates' wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates believed wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance and those who did wrong knew no better. The one thing Socrates consistently claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love", which he connected with the concept of "the love of wisdom", i.e., philosophy. He never actually claimed to be wise, only to understand the path a lover of wisdom must take in pursuing it. It is debatable whether Socrates believed humans (as opposed to gods like Apollo) could actually become wise. On the one hand, he drew a clear line between human ignorance and ideal knowledge; on the other, Plato's Symposium (Diotima's Speech) and Republic (Allegory of the Cave) describe a method for ascending to wisdom.

        On virtue

        Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth. He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace. His actions lived up to this: in the end, Socrates accepted his death sentence when most thought he would simply leave Athens, as he felt he could not run away from or go against the will of his community; as mentioned above, his reputation for valor on the battlefield was without reproach.
        The idea that there are certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates' teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that "virtue was (character limit reached)
      • Nov 14 2012: continued ,,,

        "virtue was the most valuable of all possessions; the ideal life was spent in search of the Good. Truth lies beneath the shadows of existence, and it is the job of the philosopher to show the rest how little they really know."


        The problem is the human brain doesn't work properly, most people think their mind produces 'reality' the problem is there are people who's minds who appear healthy but who's minds don't work correctly and this applies to HUGE segments of the population.

        See here for the bit about human reasoning:

        Right now pretty much ALL americans have false beliefs and false politics and values and both 'sides' are demonizing the other, the reality is they are both under illusions of political advertising and the fact that their brains don't actually perceive reality as it really is

        The american elections 2012 were a giant joke to anyone of serious intellect, real change isn't going to come from elections.

        Chris hedges

        Our immaturity as a species goes way beyond ideology.

        The fundamental problem is most peoples top value is money, their minds and culture is so invested in this institution and in their daily functioning they don't want to believe that the institution itself is largely responsible for our irrationality. Instead of solving a problem if it's going to have some significant dollar value then we shove it under the rug (like what the PM of canada is doing right now with the oil sands development and firing scientists/staff).

        Money is a tool human beings use to divorce themselves from actually having to relate and look after one another and be responsible at a fundamental level.

        It's not that we will run out of 'resources' to solve these problems it's that peoples are playing the money game and won't work towards a problem unless they are getting richer.
  • Nov 14 2012: Yes! I remember taking a closer look at this in college and it's so interesting! I notice a lot more about commercials on TV and the radio. By introducing this idea to students and showing them how advertising works they will learn 1) A lot about psychology 2) How to persuade almost anyone and 3) How to look at stats and data in a more critical light so they don't believe everything they see.

    I'm a huge stats nerd and think that advertising is all about the numbers.
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      Nov 14 2012: Very interesting points Akta

      Yes, i guess i could open the topic to include persuasion in general, not just in advertising, as persuasion and communications are fascinating subjects

      I learned one interesting thing regarding statistics while reading Daniel Kahneman, and that is the fact that our brains are terrible statisticians. For example, if we can recall an event easily (whatever drove us to remember it), we subconsciously assign to it a higher probability of occurring again, regardless of the real probability

      Many people consider the probability of dying in a flight accident is very high, and few stop to check the statistics, that tell you that it is a lot more likely to die from peanut allergy than in a flight accident. But the ease with which we can recall flight accidents as opposed to death by peanut make the former "feel" more likely

      in that sense, though, i would think that advertising is more about feeling than about real numbers, right?

  • Nov 10 2012: No, as it's a wast of time. If to young will not understand and if older will ignore you. You must lead by your actions to the advertisements. If you are any kind of good parent your children will pick up on your actions and incorporate them in their own way into their own.
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      Nov 14 2012: Hi Walter,

      I would be curious to know why do you consider it a waste of time. There are plenty of things that kids learn at school (from geometry to basic chemistry, to geography) and i would argue that they don't throw all that knowledge away

      Absolutely true that parents teach with example more than anything, but there are parents who cannot spend a lot of time time teaching, or simply lack the knowledge or skills required to teach something like how the brain works

      I remember things i learned both from my parents and from school as i was growing up, I am not sure i would consider that a waste of time, but i would like to understand your point of view

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    Nov 10 2012: I do agree that marketing uses psychological strategies. I don't even think that's debatable. However, if we didn't have useless things to sell we wouldn't have much to sell at all. I don't think the problem is market manipulation...because I think that's a byproduct of whatever market you facilitate. I see hope with creations like digital book readers and things of that nature. Innovation in this direction could definitely use a market push. This may require us to use those same strategies. Great post...I think you have it right. I just think it’s part of the system. Our system is ok...we just need to tweak some gears inside.
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      Nov 10 2012: Hi Henry, thank you for your comment,

      Interesting perspective, "if we didn't have useless things to sell we wouldn't have much to sell at all". You got it quite right. I guess that is another way of looking at the wants vs. the needs.

      As it is usual in me, i am not for an all or nothing. I don't see it realistic or desirable to advocate for selling only needs and banning sale of wants.

      Not so sure that my assessment is as optimistic as yours regarding the system though. I think that it is a working system and it may not need to be replaced completely, but i think that the tweaks are much more than superficial.

      I think that the conversion from wants to needs should be done by the individual, and of course it will depend on influences, but the individual should be left to decide (and be aware) of the influences chosen

  • Nov 7 2012: What did you learn about marketing, and from where? How did it affect you? Can we learn something about the question by sharing these stories?

    The only reason I can think of not to share information with children is if it is false information.
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      Nov 10 2012: Hi Lorelei,

      Thanks for your comment, i'll be glad to share

      I grew up without watching much tv, whic was fortunate i would say. There was not a lot to watch on tv back when i was young, and my time outside of school was spent mostly playing in the streets. The only advertisement we kids used to see all the time was that of the brands of chips or the brands of soda that the little store had on their walls and refrigerators. I don't recall more than 10 of these "brands" from back then, but i can tell you that people bought them religiously.

      One of my first experiences was to watch advertisement for disposable mops. They made them sound so much better than regular mops, with phrases like "scientifically proven", "guaranteed", etc etc.

      During those days, at least where i lived, most people used to wash clothes by hand, and squeeze their mops by hand too. I remember very clearly even today how hands that wash clothes and squeeze mops look like. And I remember very clearly (i was probably 8 yrs old or so) thinking to myself that the lady squeezing the mop in the commercial did not have such hands. So it struck me as odd that they would be faking it. Why not use a real person squeezing a real mop? i wondered.

      And the result is that i concluded that they were just faking it. I don't think i ever let go of the feeling from that realization. Why would someone making a commercial need to fake something as simple as like that?

      Well, i guess that is what got me started.

      Eventually i discovered that communication is an interesting subject, and that the way you say something can influence the way it is perceived and processed by other people. That they kind of visual images you see when you hear some words indeed changes the way you perceive those words. That sometimes we are not fully aware of the way we process words in, but we later use that information regularly

      I became critical at a young age, i guess.

  • Dan F

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    Nov 3 2012: I would be against any required public education designed to help children understand how advertisement works, or for that matter on how religion works.

    Advertisers should be regulated as tightly as the law and reason permits. Obviously advertisers are trying to sell stuff and will go to incredible creative lengths and legal limits which are smart financially.

    Being a good parent is demanding at best and there are no guarantees on outcome. I think serving as a role model you wish to promote is essential. Kids especially as they get a little older need more guidance as they become more and more exposed to other influences such as advertisers. I do think its smart to help your kids see through some of the advertising baloney, but remember as adults we are on display too. This can become tricky landscape -- "com' on dad look at you," is what your child may be thinking even if they're not saying so.

    Best way to help your growing kids IMO is to encourage and recognize their achievements as students. Online learning it seems to me could also help out parents in certain topics such as the one at hand, but parents should be the ones offering videos, etc., selections which could be discussed and serve to help them see things more objectively and truthfully.
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      Nov 6 2012: Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comment... I understood that you are against requiring this as mandatory in schools, but i was a bit confused as to whether you completely oppose teaching it in schools. would you care to clarify if you have a chance? By the way, i am not sure I would consider religion and advertisement in the same category (interesting side topic, for sure),

      But just like I am ok with kids being taught arithmetic or chemistry, i would be ok with kids being taught what we know about psychology

      Now, you bring up a very important topic, and I entirely concur with you: teaching kids that there is baloney in advertisement can open the door for them to question more than just advertisement. Some parents will not find this prospect appealing. In my case, though, I think that it is essential. Maybe because I value critical thinking much more highly than i value blind obedience, I decided to accept the risk of opening that door, so my kids to challenge my ideas as well (which does not mean that they will be right in their challenge, and most of the times i can convince them with deeper explanations, but at least they do not feel guilty of challenging authority, and they learn to accept when their challenges do not stand scrutiny)

      Online learning, as you mention is gaining a serious place in formal education, and it has tremendous potential. One can only imagine what schools will look like 50 years from now. And yes, us parents should do our homework and sort through the sea of information in order to show our kids what we think will give them tools for their personal growth

      • Dan F

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        Nov 6 2012: Hi Andres,

        My comments were perhaps a bit disjointed.

        Let me back up. Your opening comment - "Lets, face it advertisement works"

        Let's face something else, our school systems don't work so well for too many kids. Check out the percentages of those dropping out of high school and those after high school considered functionally illiterate in studies of the general population. These numbers are truly a reality check that needs more attention.

        My outlook is public schools need to concentrate on student learning of the basics and that discipline will help them better understand how we are all subject to being manipulated by a host of things including advertisement.

        Schools don't work alone that's why I suggest the best thing we can do as parents for our kids is to encourage them to be better students by doing their homework and getting good grades. Life can be hectic, but kids need a parent's engagement.

        Being able to read, write and listen is something that draws many of us to TED. This is the bread and butter to what allows this enterprise specializing in communication to excel. I think as kids get older this venue may offer a positive way for them to explore different thoughtful views and ideas expressed in talks and conversation about a variety of subjects including advertising which bombards our lives.

        Anyway - interesting topic and lots of good comments.
        • Nov 14 2012: Just because students are dropping out of high school doesn't mean education doesn't work. As an educator in a community that has low graduation rates, teaching subjects that aren't relevant to students makes them want to drop out. I can totally understand that. teaching something such as advertisement at the high school level allow students to see how math, reading, technology and art are all related. It might even invoke a passion or interest. If we don't show a little bit of this and that at the high school level then they won't see the purpose of education. Educator is no longer just math,reading, writing it's about relating what they know to the real world.
    • Nov 6 2012: I think Daf has a great point, how would it be possible to differentiate between advertising and religion. After all advertising is asking us to take a view on blind faith that our very needs and wants will be satisfied both as an individual and as a member of a clique, if only we subscribe to the "buy" this new product or process.

      So what is the difference between that and religion exactly?

      Don't get me wrong, I buy into the whole god thing, it is just religion looks so like advertising if we allowed our children to see how fake advertising is how will they stay in contact with religion?
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    Nov 3 2012: thanks for your feedback, and you're right. that 5% quip i made above doesn't look right at all. now I cannot recall the precise meaning behind what I was attempting to convey.

    to put it another way, my aim would be to take action that possibly inspires others to strive towards raising their own consciousness levels. to create that space between thoughts and 'self'. my understanding is that we do not think thoughts but thoughts come through us, they come through us do to all the experiences we've had since, the vast majority of these thoughts will be subconsciously generated, yet most of us act as if these thoughts are 'us' in action, creating them consciously. when one becomes more mindful and experiences this space between thought and mind, there is that opportunity to not judge. to not react, but respond to things around us.

    these things need not be forced on children. i have ambiguous feelings about formal education.
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      Nov 6 2012: Hi Eric,

      I think my view is not far from what you are describing.

      As i understand it, our mind has two main ways of working: one we call consciousness, makes us aware of our present, of the way our memories relate to it, and how our plans can flow from of it; this is this deliberate processing mode that enables us to use judgement, ponder consequences. The other process, more subtle and less understood is usually in the periphery of our consciousness. Some call it subconscious, Dr. Anthony Greenwald calls it level 2 (and Daniel Kahneman calls it system 1, so don't get too confused by the numbering system). This process is much more vast, can process tremendous amounts of information and it is much faster than the conscious process, however, it has the disadvantage that it is, by definition, beyond our rational control.

      So within that framework, a more conscious individual is not someone whose consciousness is bigger in comparison with the subconsciousness, but instead someone who can learn to become aware of the outcome of the subconscious process and run it through the conscious process before it becomes behavior

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        Nov 10 2012: interesting how that is put...'aware of the outcome of the subconscious process'.

        words don't seem to do it (consciousness) justice, of course.

        i experienced (several months of daily meditation) a more focused, slowing down of everything...which if i had to explain it in words would say that I was a bit more conscious. there is that 'space' in which i would be able to observe my thoughts rather than 'be' them and/or react to them. well, training the mind via meditation is an experience, not something that can be explained with language. i don't mean to dispute what you've written, but saying 'aware of the outcome of the subconscious process and run it through the conscious process before it becomes behavior' seems to diminish the transcending nature of an increase in consciousness. but, we might be trying to say the same thing here.

        in any event, more focus on training our 'minds' -- not our intellect -- is where I'd like to spend the context of 'dealing with' the manipulative nature of advertising and the broader goal of improving lives and moving away from materialism.
  • Nov 2 2012: Considering how much money was dumped into political ads this year and how many people changed their minds based on a soundbite, we must teach kids and adults how PR and marketing works. Once they can see the hand behind the message they'll not be so easily swayed.

    Frontline did a story called Big Sky Big Money and demonstrated how last minute drops of political lies can change the outcome of an election because it gives the other side no time to respond. For an educated person, last minute fliers or ads will not change their minds, but for those without critical thinking skills it can drastically affect the outcome of the election.

    I personally don't like the idea that those dumb enough to fall for such tactics are choosing our leaders.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Mary, thank you for your comment!

      Yes, you touch on a point that i just barely mention. How important it is for adults to get educated first and to use their critical skills... How can we hope to teach the young if we ourselves don't know/care?

      But one of the things that i am trying to highlight is that while the average person may not be aware of how easily it is to influence a decision, both politicians and the advertisement experts are very aware of it, and it gets incorporated in the strategy

      Thank you for the pointer to the frontline story

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    Nov 2 2012: I can't completely agree with ". . . advertisement works because it exploits a few flaws in the way our subconscious work:" But that nit picking aside I like Andres's bullets and find them reminiscent of many advertising classes I have had throughout both undergraduate and graduate business classes. I would teach some or all of that in high school, at least at an introductory level. More to help young people who are or may be interested in business, in general, or advertising, specifically, as a career, than to protect them from advertising.

    Andres, you also asked if we should teach them in church sermons and/or at home during dinner. The reality is, of course, we can't stop that from happening should clergy or parents decide they wish to educate children. But how accurate and unbiased that would be is another matter entirely. Excluding those who study and work in advertising (and not even all of them) very few of the adult population really understands how advertising works so I can't imagine how they'd teach it.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Bill, thank you for your comments

      I am always willing to learn more, and I have to admit that my background is physics, not business or marketing

      When I say that "advertisement works because it exploits a few flaws in the way our subconscious works", i am probably focusing only in the recipient side of advertisement, and not considering the creative side of it.

      What i mean by that is that the objective of advertisement is to create an impression (memory) and a preference for certain product/service/idea.

      I would love to hear your side of the story on that point, as well as your insights on how is it that advertisement works (I am always trying to teach my kids stuff like this)

      Now, talking about teaching this, I think it is almost impossible to be unbiassed, even if we use only accurate facts in our discussion. As Howard Zinn would put it brilliantly: even if we don't hide any facts, every time we communicate we decide to put some more emphasis on certain facts over others, and that creates a bias.

      My bias in this case is against targeting kids with advertisement.

      My opinion is that individuals should be respected and they should have a saying in the amount of advertisement they receive. Specially kids. I think their minds and brains should not be bombarded with as much advertisement as possible

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        Nov 2 2012: Looks like I put my response in the wrong place so I'm moving it here and will delete the orignal post. Sorry for the confusion.

        Hi Andres,

        Probably just a matter of semantics with the word "flaws". I'm on board with your main point if we use some other adjective, for example, maybe "realities". But that's not important enough to quibble about and certainly doesn't detract from your message (". . . the objective of advertisement is to create an impression (memory) and a preference for certain product/service/idea), which I agree with.

        And I'm probably being too exacting when talking about potential bias, which, as you said is always present, in my opinion, in all subjects. The only question is to what degree? For me the higher order issue is how those not trained in advertising, whether that be parents, clergy, or both, will be able to teach it when they themselves don't know how it works.

        You also said, "My bias in this case is against targeting kids with advertisement." Always? I assume you are in favor of "stay in school", "don't do drugs", "don't smoke", etc. advertising. But not likely the ads that aim to create purchase of things kids either don't need and/or can't afford. If so I agree with that in principle but find it hard knowing when and how to draw the line (one person's sin is another person's pleasure.)

        In a more perfect world kids would get help sorting all this out from the parents but we all know there are far too many situations where that doesn't happen. As to there being limits on how much advertising kids are exposed to, absolutely, and not just the ads! TV period. Kids should be studying, sleeping, reading, playing, interacting with others in the real world, not virtually, collectively far more than they watch TV. I just don't think you can legislate the right levels of whatever that should be.

        Good topic Andres
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          Nov 2 2012: As you moved your comment, i'll move my response too:

          I will agree with you Bill, not all advertisement is equal and i should be wary of my own generalizations. Of course we (specially us parents) are all about an ad that promotes no-drugs, stay in school, etc.

          I have seen them and i applaud them. I have also seen them with a few strings attached (a logo on the corner, a particular sponsor), and then i start to question

          It is indeed hard to legislate, and the reason why i mention incorporating this information in school curriculums in addition to churches and home discussions, is because not all parents get to spend the needed time with their kids to discuss this, or as we have said before, not all of them understand the process very well

          Just for the sake of clarification, the reason why i call them "flaws" (although i certainly agree with you, they are realities) is because, just like when we look at an optical illusion without understanding the mental mechanism that makes it so, we use our decision making processes without understanding the mental mechanism behind it, and sometimes there are some "illusions" in it too

          thank you for your contributions!

  • Nov 2 2012: I haven't had a tv subscription at my house for about 10 years now.

    No commercials, no state controlled news, no bullshit programs and no MTV.

    If want something I don't need an commercial to tell me so. I'am more then capable of deciding that for myself.
    If I want to read/watch the news I have access to the internet.
    I have 0 interest in the latest cooking shows, decorate my house or dancing with the stars bullshit.

    And when/if I get kids I refuse to expose them to such things.

    As compensation I'll buy or download all the good old shows for kids their age that do have educational value and adhere my moral values.
  • Nov 2 2012: From a very early age, I taught my kids what the motives behind advertising are. I feel that this empowers my kids to make decisions for themselves rather being told what to do from the media. My kids know that advertising dollars drive "free" tv and radio and that the motive is to try to sell products to people.
    I remember my own deprogramming from decades of media exposure and I feel it's the right thing to do for the kids.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Dan,

      Couldn't agree more, I was lucky enough to grow up playing more soccer in the streets than watching tv. But even if we try to keep them active and minimize their tv time, our kids are bombarded with advertisement much more than we were.

      Yes, I also told my kids that it is advertising that pays for TV, but that it is not the only way to pay for TV, we can also pay and get ad-free tv. I guess it goes hand in hand with teaching them that in the world of entertainment (as in many other areas) there is no such a thing as a free lunch

      I like your concept of deprogramming, and yes i have done something similar in the past. However, i remember learning something a few years back that i found a little troubling. It is called IAT (Implicit Association Tests). Basically, by measuring how quickly you can answer to associating of pairs of concepts, they can tell what biases are already engrained in your brain through repetition. (if you want to check it out here is some info:

      So far, even when one can find out about our own biases, and try to consciously go against them, since they are committed to long term neural connections, it is hard to "deprogram" them.

      You can then imagine that if you bombard a kids brain with associations between a particular brand and a particular good feeling, it takes a great effort to grow out of that bias. That is why i am an advocate of protecting the kids brains in the first place

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        Nov 2 2012: You said you found the IAT methodology "troubling". Why is that?
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          Nov 2 2012: Not the methodology, i found the results troubling..

          Because it is only with effort that we can go against an unconscious bias, yet we use our unconscious biases for decision making most of the time without stopping to think about it twice

          And even when trying to work against a cognitive bias (that can be created by simple repetition through media consumption), it does not dissapear

          I guess that is what i found a bit troubling
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        Nov 2 2012: I had not heard of IAT and clicked through to the link you provided (thank you), taking the "Presidents" test once there. I think but am not sure I understand the methodology on a very superficial level but even then not to any great degree.

        I wouldn't say I was "troubled" by my result (a "slight" preference for Clinton over Obama), but it certainly didn't fit with what I thought the test would indicate given how I think I responded to the questions. Because of that I am left wondering A. When it comes to Clinton and Obama, do I not really know what I think?, B. Was the methodology crap?, or C. Some combination of the two. Given my uncertainty there is no way I'm taking the sexual preference test.
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          Nov 2 2012: Ha ha ha, thanks for a good laugh! Yes some of those tests are better left untouched

          It is indeed surprising Bill.

          Keep in mind that one of the important things being tested is not just your responses, but the speed with which you respond, and that speed is not something you can consciously control, that is how they get a glimpse at the subconscious "opinions"

          I think what the test results say is that we can consciously have a preference and keep our own arguments supporting our preference, however, there are unconscious factors that play a role, and we need to weed them out.

          Some people is not aware of this fact, and hence is more prone to decide based on the unconscious biases rather than through a more thorough and conscious review

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          Nov 2 2012: If you ever find yourself with some free time, here is a link to a video (almost an hour long, i warn), that describes the test and concepts
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          Nov 6 2012: Not sure what happened to the link, but here it goes again


          I hope it stays this time

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    Oct 30 2012: Although the computer cookie is still used as it was intended (known as a session cookie), it has become more identified as an adware or spyware tool. As the popularity of the Internet increased starting in the late 1990s, cyber criminals and marketers alike learned how to take the original computer cookie and recreate it to use for tracking the Internet movement of individual computer users, in some cases to steal personal information right off of the user's computer.

    Read more: What Company Invented the Computer Cookie? |

    When I go to Google, all I receive is a giant blank page with a search window on it and a simple banner. I receive no ads and all I did was turn off cookies. When I go to my bank. I make an exception for my bank but.... my bank does not report to a tracking company that I am at the bank. :)
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    Oct 29 2012: I think neuroscience is as basic as the 3 Rs.
    It should be offered.
    I don't think there is any place for your assumption that anything at all should be forced upon our children through "teaching".
    The fact is that the dynamics of neuroscience are out there. The cat's out of the bag and it will run about and get patted on teh head by curious children.
    Cat-hair will be all over the place before long.
    So you need not feel compelled to force anything - they already know, and they will be teaching us stuff before too long.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi Mitch, thanks for your comment.

      Sorry if my question sounded confusing. I do not consider most teaching "forcing" upon children, maybe i could not say the same about religion, but that is probably because of my non-religious stance.

      People as a group decide that there is certain knowledge that we would like to pass to the future generations as a tool for their improved survival, and hence we end up teaching them how to read, how to add numbers, what the nitrogen cycle is and the water cycle is, some basic chemistry, biology, etc. etc. etc.

      My view is that with basic education in schools we try to lay a very general foundation upon which the kid will later build. Which part would you consider "forcing"?

      Neuroscience is still a young field, and not a lot of information is out there widely available even for the general public. Most people consider math and physics like oddities, but they are very safe to discuss in the classroom, chemistry is one level up, but is still safe to discus. But i have seen that people get a bit apprehensive when we move on to biology. Specially because that is a field that touches way too close to home. Neuroscience, i think, goes even further in that direction.

      I think the reason why i find it hard to agree with your argument, is because some aspects of neuroscience, specially as it pertains to our subconscious and our decision making processes, is quite far from intuitive, very much like quantum mechanics is not intuitive yet it works. I doubt that kids would come up with ideas of quantum mechanics on their own just by their every day observation of the world around them.

      So maybe following that analogy between quantum mechanics and neuroscience, just like one needs some guidance in order to venture into such odd direction, and a willingness to depart from cherished and known paths, they both require some deliberate teaching efforts

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        Oct 30 2012: No.

        Neuroscience is simple. It only appears difficult because of the breadth of assumptions that are toppled by it.

        In fact, the assumptions that it topples result from a few thousand years of "advertising" - the notion that the mind, body and spirit are different things - all gone - all replaced by the elegant simplicity of network topologies in a living universe. Every kid with a mobile phone or computer can now observe it in real time. No need for dogma and no need for propaganda to induce false structures into gaps of ignorance.

        I equate the verb "educate" with force. This is the broadcast model of knowledge - teh book, the radio, the newspaper, the television, the classroom. These are all static hierachies - all of these assume the subservience of the reciever and the dominance of the broadcaster. It is an act of violation. We now have the dynamic of the network in our faces - something to compare. And in that comparison is a great liberation from the impost of the broadcast domination of a dieing hierarchy.

        intuitive? For you maybe, but you, like me, grew up knowing only the violation of the crazy broadcast model of knowledge. Our kids know better.
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          Oct 31 2012: Hi Mitch,

          Well, seems like i know much less about neuroscience than i thought i did, perhaps i should stick to quantum mechanics.

          By the way, do you consider quantum mechanics simple too? I would love to chat with you if that's the case.

          I try not to take subjects lightly, one day i found myself wondering why is it that optical illusions are such. There is nothing magical in them, nor there was any "simple" explanation for them. Our brains construct a view of the outside world based on inputs and the translation between input and its interpretation is predictably flawed. That lead me into studying other ways in which our neural networks may behave in predictable but flawed ways. I have not yet attained a level where i can say that neuroscience is simple.

          Now, about these network topologies in a living universe... not sure i've heard that concept... care to elaborate? or point me in the right research direction?

          Not sure if you consider education of our own's kids as a violation of their individuality. As a parent I do not. I try to filter what I give them, to the bare minimum, and trying to be aware of my own biases when I talk to them. But I consider education of my offspring as a transference of tools that hopefully will result in their improved survival chances.

          Again you mention the dynamic of the network, but i have no point of reference as i do not know what that means. What exactly is the "dynamic of the network"? I think only then i can use it to compare.

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        Oct 31 2012: Hi Andres,

        Quantum mechanics deals with phenomena that lie outside our sensory and perceptual frameworks. Network dynamics are the stuff of our sensory and perceptive frameworks - we live it.
        The topological potentiation in a brain can be easily communicated because we see it all around us in stark demonstration - e.g river systems .. the water flows to the sea, each outlet to the sea has a topological catchment, we can observe that a drop of water falling on one side of a mountain finds its way to the sea at a different place to one that falls on the other side. Such obsevervation does not require CERN to reveal it.
        The interaction between networks can be demonstrated through the simple observation of trial-and-error - this is the basis of adaptation and evolution .. we can call it Bayesian learning, but that is only useful on the path to mathematical reduction.
        One can explain such "flaws" as optical illusion by invoking the lake analogy of river systems - teh drop of water that finds itself in a lake, thinks it has found the sea - until it widens its perspective = the local-minimum trap of incomplete network training.

        I wouldn't mind chatting if you like.

        And I applaud your educational ethic .. it is not the one I usually encounter.
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    Oct 29 2012: Definitely YES. The points you raised above should be taught and reminded to the kids, adolescents and adults. We also should give a clear name to the advertisements strategy. The word we should use and repeat it again and again to describe what their strategy does, is: BRAINWASHING
  • Oct 25 2012: Or we could always outlaw advertisement aimed toward children.
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    Oct 25 2012: On a base level I am skeptical that resources should be utilized institutionally to accomplish this goal of education.

    On a compassionate level, I would prefer to focus on transcending our inabilities to control our insatiable appetites for 'things'...transcend this culture of looking for happiness 'out there'.

    Maybe this is inline with what you are seeking. If you are exploring ways to improve the lives of children by arming them with education. My angle would be to arm them with mindfulness.

    I like the idea, however, of finding a creative way of educationally instilling in children how we are only utilizing our conscious minds about 5% of the time. And the significance of this. This will in turn lead them to seek ways of improving this limitation. It may lead to an increase in consciousness, which naturally leads to less seeking for happiness 'out there'.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your comments. Yes i think you understood me correctly, I am looking for means of improving the lives of children by arming them with education.

      I share your fear that government intervention most of the time produces undesired results, and hence making this a matter of public education curriculum may make it problematic. I do think though, that many of the hurdles can be overcome, and that just like public schools of today do a good job at teaching them the nitrogen cycle, or the water cycle, maybe with time they could also teach them the subconscious decision making process. And I think this could do wonders to arm them with tools to defend themselves and grow more independent

      And I also agree with you, in the sense that we are only aware of a small fraction of what's going on in our own brains (and hence we are conscious of a very small part of our mental experiences), and that learning about this and enabling people to become more aware of themselves, I too think it would be of tremendous significance

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        Nov 1 2012: take this with a grain of salt, it's coming more from intuition than hard logic.

        I don't think public schools have a relationship with the public that would be aligned with teaching this kind of thing...teaching this would be counter-productive to the growth of capitalism I reckon, and I feel that this wouldn't be in line with the current public school systems' interests, as they exist today in the USA.

        in the end...great question/discussion.

        1) I would prefer to focus energy in transcending this materialistic society
        2) I would focus on increasing the public awareness of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, and other techniques that benefit our consciousness
        3) the vehicle could come in the form of some non-profit, cyberspaced strategy, perhaps married to some physical institutions
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Eric,

      Be careful about that 5% stat - it is totally false. It's a little bit of misinformation that got injected into public usage by pseudo scientists and journalists mis-quoting real scientists for sensational effect.

      You may well have a basis for using it in the correct frame, but without backing it up with some explaination, the misinformation will be heard in preference to what you are actually saying.

      It is absolutely essential. that a brain is not totally activated at any particular time - the only fully-activated brain is one of someone in the throws of a grand-mal siezure.

      Can you provide some context around your 5% statement?

      I agree that cyberspace has the key to propogating resistance to brand-programing of world views, but it is not something that needs to be organised. Simply advocate, and the message will find its own way through the network.

      You all keep making the mistake that such things need to be forced on children through a mistaken assumption that education is a dominance function. It is not. It is more akin to communality.
  • Oct 25 2012: Advertising and manipulation of our opinions are both real and a scary thought. Adam Smith was right Man can be evil. Some people are truly relentless in their quest for the trough with their piggly slop. Reread Charles Mckays Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In America the are agressively lowering wages like before theGreat Depression. It seems that our friends the Germans, Japanese, and Koreans care more about tgheir fellows and are doing exactly the opposite. In a more extreme form so are the Chinese.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hello George,

      Thanks for the pointer. I have not read Charles McKays, but I am intrigued now.

      I am not a big fan of the way the Chinese government spreads the load of the economic boom on a vast percentage of the population, but it only spreads the benefits of it between a very small elite. I would not say the Chinese government cares much about their fellows, specially their fellow workers, but I cannot say that the US government cares much either. Again, it might be because i do not believe much of what i hear in campaign advertisements

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    Oct 19 2012: Well... how do you teach your kid what this means, at first i thought it was about the american election, then i thought it was about climate change, instead they ruined a perfume i use to buy for those special girls that has graced my life, this is truly sad.
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      Oct 19 2012: Hi Ken,

      Thanks for the link, ehm.. i guess... (couldn't finish my dinner after watching it) he he, well, pulling from the kind of discussions that i tried with my kids when watching comercials, i would ask: what are they selling? a perfume, who is going to buy this? mostly women, what is the number one emotion evoker used by comercials? sex... wait!, i thought sex was only effectve when selling to men! (well, apparently a certain best seller, with fifty shades and all, proves me wrong)

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        Oct 19 2012: There was one other component i forgot to add that i thought was tacky, the fake recital style of a lovelorn poetic male but for some reason a bottle of Canadian Club would suit the advert instead of Chanel. If women find this appealing then what you have stated with supposed sex appeal or it could be aimed at men to regarner interest to buy for their never know with advertisers trying to connect emotionally while you are dephased while waiting for your programme to resume and I must apologize but American advertizing is the most faked, sheeple, badly rehearsed advertising on the planet, most Americans i know are the most engaged people i've come across and yet this is what they see at home? It makes a mockery of my friends and their intelligence as if they were raised in a world that thinks you are moronic. Sorry guys i'm not knocking you or your country and i'm sure you might think the same for my countries advertising style, i'm only coming at it from my personal perspective, so i apologize for the rant but that's how i see it.


        I think it's just me not interpreting the advertising culture properly.
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    Oct 19 2012: depends on what you describe as advertisement...... commercial advertisement is just the idea of "planting seeds", plant enough seeds something will grow
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      Oct 19 2012: Hi Casey, thanks for your response

      The part of advertisement that i take issue with is when facts are deliberately concealed, or when emotions are evoked in a subtle way that makes someone make a decision that would probably be different if all facts were on the table and emotions were either ommited or explained openly

      I think that comercial advertisement goes way beyond planting seeds, in some cases (like the radio commercials that urge you to buy certain CD) they make it evident that they are forcing their information into listeners brains. Why else would someone repeat a phone number 4 times consecutively? Have you noticed that when you hera a number repeated 4 times you are very likely to memorize it? Well, kids do and they don't even stop to think about it

      Same thing happens when everyone is wearing some skateboarder's brand of clothes... it feels like crap when you have a plain t-shirt your parents got you at the supermarket. Kid's don't stop to think about why is it that it feels like crap.. they just try to follow that urge to belong

      That is the kind of thing that i consider unethical (from a little unethical to completely unethical) in the advertisement industry

      I am not advocating here for getting rid of advertising, but, i am interested to devise a way to teach kids (and people) to look at it in a critical way

      Fritzie (in an earlier comment) pointed me to a great resource. I guess this is one way to get started, if only to be followed up with more detailed explanations

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        Oct 19 2012: Shouldn't this be an issue of public policy,which I think it is, but needs to be better cranked down upon. Otherwise yes we should teach kids this. But who's job is that? School's or parents?
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          Oct 19 2012: I agree with you Casey... this should be made a matter of public policy (which is i guess what i imply when i ask if this should be taught in schools) But I also think that education starts at home and that parents should make a conscious effort to educate themselves and then pass along to their children the information they need to make more informed decisions

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    Oct 18 2012: Lately i've been playing with the idea that our entire existence,culture,life as individuals and as a collective whole is dedicated to creating the prediction, even this forum is linked to google analytics to go into someones model somewhere on the planet.

    Teach our kids economics as well as the arts.


    I just realized something that i do, if you want to know about a product and it's durability and performance. don't go to the product manufacturers site but head to the independent review forums and the private forums, I think everyone does this, then go to the main site if you're still interested and then check the price network sites for the cheapest available close to you. Nothing beats an average persons review.
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    R H

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    Oct 18 2012: Since the dawn of time parents have been teaching their kids how to survive and prosper in their world, to avoid danger, and to be clever in life. Things are really no different today, only the 'terrain' has change from the natural jungle to the jungle of modern civilization. Just as we teach our children which berries to eat and which animals are poisonous, we teach them to discern the messages they receive through modern communication. As a side-bar, let's remember this when we hear all of the hubbub about STEM education at the expense of liberal arts. "They need to get jobs!" - just another ad.
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      Oct 18 2012: Hi R H, thanks for your comment

      I agree with you that since the dawn of humans, and even before that as found in many other mammals, parents do strive to teach their offspring survival skills

      It is absolutely true, nowadays we have switched and one of the skills we try to teach them, as you have pointed out, is to discern the messages they receive through modern communications. And i like your comment about the ad of STEM education at the expense of liberal arts. I am lucky to live between both worlds as a physicist/computer geek/musician and would not give up any of them

      But, and here is the question, do we really understand how advertisement works in our brains? And then, just like Feynman said, can we teach that to a kindergartener?

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        R H

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        Oct 20 2012: thanks Andres. I think what you're getting at is that now we have new issues to consider - other than what we've confronted historically. The subtlety of advertising, often nefarious for children, may be beyond the capabilities of understanding for children, yet they are significantly influenced by the messages. But, crazy as it may seem, I really don't see it as any different than a stealthy tiger as we walk through the reeds, or a slinking snake in the night. I believe parents in the past (and even in some regions today) would have not allowed their children to be put in such harms way, until they decided that the child was ready. I see today's psychological and influential 'tigers and snakes' in much the same way, although with alternate differentiating skills required. To answer your last 2 questions, I think that as we continue to understand the influence of advertising 'in our brains' we will continue on the path that individuals process the info received differently. Although there is the 'least common denominator' factor in advertising marketing, we will adapt the same keen awareness and understanding that we had to develop in the 'other' jungle to keep safe. As advertising continues to be more sophisticated we will become increasingly adept at their tricks, and our children will follow. But maybe this linear projection of understanding is inadequate for the world we are creating - advertising a mere single facet of an emerging whole. Our new world of technological marvels is transforming our abilities and us. We are no longer just 'making tools', I believe we are on the threshold of transformation. So maybe our current methods of evaluating and situational assessment are no longer adequate for the new issues we're creating. Yup. I have gotten off track, but I love this stuff. Can we teach it to a kindergartener? I think I gave my view already. Thanks again for the interesting topic.
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    Oct 18 2012: You don't need an additioanal hour or even separate subject for this. If you ask if it is good to discuss commercials with children, then sure it is worth it, but let us not institutionalize everything.

    Nowadays, people in the West want to institutionalize absolutely everything. They want to teach children how to have safe sex, how not to fall pray of greedy capitalists etc.

    The one thing they forget, however, is clearly encapsulated in Lao-Tse's sentence, which goes something like this:

    "Whoever pierces all things with a clear eye, may well do without information"
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      Oct 18 2012: Hi Jedrek, thanks for your answer,

      I understand and sympathize with your concern Jedrek. I, too, want the government to stop sticking its nose in many aspects of my life.

      But it is a fine balance, and the reason of my suggestion of using school or church sermons for this, is because from my own experience (maybe it is not as common as i think), few adults understand the psychology (and neurology) of advertising.

      That is the information that I would like to make available to kids

      I could not agree more with your quote from Lao-Tse! indeed the more pieces we can see, the better off we'll be, that is precisely my point... Most of us don't see all the pieces and hence fall prey to those who do

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    Oct 18 2012: I'm gonna say that I'm a sucker for the gimmicks that really hook, line, and sink me.

    Ex. Dos Equis (Most Interesting Man in the World), Old Spice (Old Spice Guy), and some League of Legends merchandise (Teemo Hats).

    Here's a prime example of what I consider one of the greatest marketing performances (Five Guys guy):

    These instances are all imho marketing geniuses.
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    Oct 17 2012: Yes, kids should be taught how these things work.
    Even though it may not give them immunity against its effects because Ads usually appeals to our fantasies; and fantasies are one of our escape routes from the harsh realities of life and living.
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      Oct 18 2012: Hi Feyisayo, thanks for your comment.

      I understand that we may not want to kill a kids fantasy world. Even we as adults escape to our fantasies! But i want to think that we as adults understand the nature of these fantasies, and we can share that nowledge with kids too

      My question, i guess, is geared towards a general understanding of why advertisement works. Do you think my understanding is more or less correct (based on the explanation of the debate above)? If not, what else would you point to?

      And once we agree on the basics, would you say that the majority of people understand it too?

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    Oct 17 2012: Yes
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      Oct 17 2012: Hi Pat,

      So I concur with you... but now, how do we open that conversation?

      I remember playing with my kids (since they were 4 or 5 yrs of age) a game in which we would run to mute the tv as soon as commercials came up, and they should try to tell me what the tv was trying to sell them. As they grew up, we continued this, but i expanded the question to say: what are they trying to sell you, and how are they trying to sell it to you?

      I got some good results and some not so spectacular ones, but i think they have some awareness of the way the whole thing works

      Is there another (better) approach?, how about in school?

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        Oct 17 2012: Andres, With my kids I took them to the grocery store and showed them a box of icecream bars and the next day showed them what the same money would buy from the icecream truck in the neighborhood. The following day I ask them to choose a dozen bars or the single that the truck had .... they said to get the money quick before the truck got away.

        To kids it is simply here and now.

        After reading about Dr DeLorenzo's degree in Public Choice (Econ & poli Si) I have been thinking about a high school honors class of Econ, Poli Si, and Philosophy (with some stats thrown in. The teacher would just guide the course the onus on the student to take current evens and apply a historical application make a theory and model it. Then as in a thesis defend it.

        Just a thought .... see ya .... Bob.
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        Oct 18 2012: Andres

        I think you answered you own question. What did you say? You said it all.

        Life is a game sorry folks that is just the way it is, no deep profound heavy thinking required just have fun, if nothing else it beats the alternative?

        I read a book one time called the game of work in which the author stated what is the difference between a game and work? For one as I recall it was attitude, 2ndly in a game you keep score.

        One of the things missing in today's world is the game of exchange. It effects people's values. A friend of mine was telling me about his daughter who kept yammering on about I want this or that brand name something or other. He got her into girl scouts as part of the program they got her a job. She learned about exchange. After saving up the money for the name brand something or other she exclaimed that she could get the generic brand for far less of her hard earned money. My friend said from now on all of his kids were going to be in the scout program. I said to him (he is from Taiwan) you know you are more American than most Americans.

        Today's video goes over this exact point:

        Note the teacher's attitude this guy is a very serious teacher? You betcha In the word of Amy "changing the way a person thinks about something can be easy or hard it all depends on the way the person feels about change"

        You will not find that anyone who is truly successful who is not insouciant and flippant , what I'm saying is that insouciance is a very serious subject.

        You do understand that marketing, public relations, and advertising are 3 very different things?

        I will say that it is a PR world and if you can convey PR to your children it will serve them well.
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          Oct 18 2012: What a fantastic video, thank you for pointing it out Pat.

          Indeed I understand that marketing, pr and advertising are 3 different things. First i must probably take marketing out as such, since what i had in mind was marketing campaigns, which are already included in advertising.

          I must say that my purpose in lumping pr and advertising together was to narrow the focus of my question to those elements that are common between them, while still retaining my goal of how to teach kids to recognize these elements, how to be able to decide whether to use or not those elements, etc.

          For example:

          Both have as one of their objectives to convince someone to adopt a particular perspective when looking at something. Whether a product, a person, or a news event, they heavily highlight certain aspect of it while ignoring or giving little importance to other aspects

          Both are used to reach a large number of individuals, hence another objective of them is standardization of opinion

          I do not mean to demonize any of them here, I understand the importance of reaching customers for new products, and there is such a thing as great (in the creative sense) advertisements

          But looking at the pr strategies used by the tobacco industry in the past, looking at the majority of the campaign ads used by both presidential candidates, i cannot help but see them as a bit unethical, dishonest, and misleading.

          I can say that I can handle that and ignore it (read more independent sources, etc), but I am trying to devise methods to prepare a kid to be immune (if such a thing is possible) to this later kind of pr/advertising

          thanks again for your response
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        Oct 18 2012: Public Relations:

        The profession or practice of creating and maintaining goodwill of an organization's various publics


        An activity to call attention to a product and create a demand for that product, which increases sales.

        In marketing you want people to think well of you. In Advertising you are trying to create demand. People have an emotional reason for buying anything this hat will make me look cool, if I don't buy this something bad will happen as with insurance, this jewelry will make me elegant.

        The emotions vary with the public. A public is a specific demographic relevant to your product.

        PR is about making people work with you instead of against you. You might say it is a 2 for 1 deal. The very core of PR is good manners. Good manners is treating people with importance. The opposite of good manners is arrogance. This you can and imo should teach to your children.

        The phrase if you think you understand something explain it to a 6 year old comes to mind.

        How about an experiment a game of watching people's reaction when you treat them with indifference and when you treat them with importance. (Don't confuse this with being obsequious as some would say is PR, which is BS)

        Another game could be what is the emotional reason the advertiser is using to make you want the product.

        Another subject that would server your children well is logic, not to be confused with math. And another one is economics, at the level of exchange, in other word get them a job to do and pay them or get them paid for doing the job. It is an education in producing and exchanging not just consuming.

        One other thing that people often don't realize that is that children want to help their parents as they feel indebted to them. It is important to let them, no matter if they break or damage, the important thing is that they exchange no matter how young.
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          Oct 18 2012: Pat,

          The activities that you suggest are excellent. And you bring up the very important point of teaching kids about economics, even at a very early stage

          One particular aspect that bothers me about both PR and advertisement, is when facts are concealed deliberately in order to achieve the particular end of causing a feeling of discomfort with the current status

          That has prompted me to study perception, the neurology behind comfort and discomfort, decision making within uncertainty, etc. Not the personal and particular (and bound to be different) ways people perceive something, or feel about something or decide, but the common aspects that all humans share in terms of cognitive perception, neurology of feelings and subconscious decision making processes

          Thanks again Pat, I always learn new things from you

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        Oct 18 2012: That would be black PR. That is why logic is important. Most people do not use it, too bad it is a very pragmatic subject that could change the world. Logic trumps the synapses every time.
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          Oct 18 2012: I am a devoted fan of using logic, and i keep trying to improve mine as i grow up.

          However, have you read the work of Kahneman and Tversky? Ther are some very predictable ways in which the human decision making process defies logic... and it is not until one learns about these flaws that we can try to actively try to mitigate them (it is not as easy to simply learn them and avoid them, since many are subconscious and rooted in our brain structure)

          A common example is the fact that 10 dollars lost hurt more than the pleasure 10 dollars gained (our feelings towards losses and gains are assymetric). This to me defies my logic, but i have come to accept it as experiments show that the vast majority of people indeed feel that way

          Maybe my logic that assumed symetry was not correct to begin with!
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        Oct 18 2012: No, I steer clear of psychobabble.

        I would say that this cannot possibly be uniform with all individuals. Some people are influenced more by their subconscious than others. Logic allows you to see aberrant behavior for what it is.
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          Oct 18 2012: Not exactly psychobabble in my opinion (but we are allowed to disagree here)... Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work regarding prospect theory (but then again you can tell me that Obama won the Nobel Peace Price, and i will have to yield)

          Yes logic allows you to see "aberrant" behavior but there are ways to study large numbers of individuals and determine if there are indeed shared traits. From all i have read, the subconscious is not a blank slate when we are born, but has certain pre-defined rules that have their basis in the human brain physiology and not in culture or education