This week we looked at advertising and the way it is used to alter our mental environment. We saw what it does to our senses, how it tricks us into believing and perceiving value, and especially how it is used to trick us into consumerism. Our workshop group even chose to work on a case study about McDonald’s – and the way they use advertising to trick children into buying and eating their unhealthy foods, into creating happy memories and inducing positive emotions when they even think about the brand.
Now, don’t get me wrong, but with all this knowledge about how the human mind works and how it perceives things, we don’t just have a crisis – I think there is also an opportunity. We know how powerful these tools are when used to do ‘bad’ – when used to trick us into buying stuff, making the rich and powerful even richer and more powerful. But isn’t there an equal amount of possibilities to use these techniques and mechanisms to do ‘good’? I think there is an enormous opportunity in using the persuasive practices developed by the likes of Freud and Bernays, and turning them on their heads to do something better for ourselves. Because, as Rory Sutherland argues in this 16-minute TED talk,
All value is perceived value.
It’s not about what something costs, it’s about what it is worth to us.