Unconscious Influences

Unconscious Influences July 2, 2010

Time ticks off some observed ways in which people have been shown to be susceptible to irrational subconscious influences:

Studies have found that upon entering an office, people behave more competitively when they see a sharp leather briefcase on the desk, they talk more softly when there is a picture of a library on the wall, and they keep their desk tidier when there is a vague scent of cleaning agent in the air. But none of them are consciously aware of the influence of their environment.

people sitting in hard chairs are more likely to be more rigid in negotiating the sales price of a new car, they tend to judge others as more generous and caring after they hold a warm cup of coffee rather than a cold drink, and they evaluate job candidates as more serious when they review their résumés on a heavy clipboard rather than a light one.

“These are stimuli that people are conscious of — you can feel the hard chair, the hot coffee — but were unaware that it influenced them. Our unconscious is active in many more ways than this review suggests,” he says.

Ruud Custers, who just coauthored a review of the literature  supporting the idea of what they call an “unconscious will”, claims that we should still be more scared of the advertising we can see than whatever subliminal messages might be attempting to exploit this subconscious susceptibility to irrational influences.  He points out that the observable associations in an ad between people having a Coke and having positive-rewards like friends and trips to the beach can make you unconsciously decide you want a Coke.

In my case, just reading that part of the article made me actually go get a soda.  But it was not a Coke.  Because I am the master of my own destiny.

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