Friday, June 03, 2011

This is Your Brain on Marketing

Friends and readers now regularly float me tidbits that sort of serve as confirmations and illustrations--or at least case studies--of some of the kinds of claims I made in Desiring the Kingdom regarding cultural formation (like the recent study on the cult-status of Apple for devotees). So I'm going to crowd-source here and feature them in an occasional series of "DTK Case Studies," with thanks for the tips and suggestions.

Mark Roeda (who's provided tips before) pointed me to Jonah Lehrer's recent observations about the formation of memory by marketers, and the brain science that underlies this. (Lehrer makes regular cameos in David Brooks' new book, The Social Animal.)

Here's the tease:
How could a stupid commercial trick me into believing that I loved a product I’d never actually tasted? Or that I drank Coke out of glass bottles?
And here's the upshot:
This idea, simple as it seems, requires us to completely re-imagine our assumptions about memory. It reveals memory as a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. The recall is altered in the absence of the original stimulus, becoming less about what we actually remember and more about what we’d like to remember. It’s the difference between a “Save” and the “Save As” function. Our memories are a “Save As”: They are files that get rewritten every time we remember them, which is why the more we remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. And so that pretty picture of popcorn becomes a taste we definitely remember, and that alluring soda commercial becomes a scene from my own life. We steal our stories from everywhere. Marketers, it turns out, are just really good at giving us stories we want to steal.

Now go read the whole article.