TED Conversations

Andres Aullet


This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    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 birth...so, 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.
    • thumb
      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

      • thumb
        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 energy...in the context of 'dealing with' the manipulative nature of advertising and the broader goal of improving lives and moving away from materialism.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.