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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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  • 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.

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