reply to post by mistermonculous
The advertising industry has been leveraging our Stories against us since the early 2000's
You mean the early 1900s, surely, or even the mid-1800s.
The news you bring doesn’t trouble me in the least. It is just another an effort to raise the strike-rate of advertising and propaganda through the
use of science. It is very primitive, and the nature of what is being studied – how the mind works, how and what stories affect it, how and why they
do so – is so fraught with complexity and fuzzy variables that there isn’t enough time or computing power in the universe to deal with them all.
The quarry is about as elusive as a contact lens in a swimming pool.
I spent about a quarter-century in the international advertising industry. For the first three or four years I believed all the theoretical guff in
communications and psychology they taught me, though I noticed the veterans of the industry didn’t seem to take the stuff very seriously at all.
Meanwhile, I’d been making my own investigations, based on my day job and the scientific education I am lucky enough to have received. I soon
discovered that the ‘psychology’ of communications was mostly shaky theorizing, and most of ‘science’ concerning advertising and mass
communications was pure mumbo-jumbo. The situation may have improved a little since then, but from what former colleagues tell me, I doubt it.
I came to believe (and still do) that what makes advertising and propaganda work is the same thing that makes any story work: empathy on the part of
the author, plus a talent for telling stories people enjoy hearing, reading or watching.
I left the business early in the last decade with a firm conviction that over a century of communications, market and consumer research, costing
heaven knows how many millions of dollars, had failed even to produce insight in depth about, let alone reproduce the effectiveness of, works of
persuasion being churned out in their thousands daily by highly talented storytellers all over the world. The irony is that some of the best of these
people work in ad agency creative departments.
What you describe is just the latest attempt by unimaginative left-brained clods to set the black art of communications and persuasion on a firm
scientific basis. As always, they’re bringing into play the fashionable tools of the age – in this case, the MRI scanner and gargantuan
number-crunching. As always, they will fail.
The grail they seek is not at all hard to find, for the right people. For the wrong ones, it cannot be winkled out by simple-minded technocratic
means, nor, indeed, by any means. The secret of how to produce stories that affect their hearers lies in two common but unreliable human faculties:
empathy and creative talent. No doubt studying such phenomena as how mirror neurons work and how the brain shapes and causally connects discrete
events into a narrative will help us understand, in a klutzy, by-the-numbers way that misses the whole point, how stories work their magic on us. But
it will never help us tell more persuasive stories. People with storytelling talent don’t need such help, and no amount of scientific insight or
technical assistance will ever help the untalented. The golden key to successful advertising, propaganda, cultural warfare, etc., will remain what it
always has been: find the right thing to say and get the right people to say it for you.
DARPA may be investing in this, and Dr. Casebeer may have a scintillating academic record, but the whole field is nothing but witch-doctoring and
pseudoscience none the less. I don’t see it changing any time soon, either.
At least one of the bloggers you link to in your OP agrees with me:
So what’s new here? What secrets of the narrative art will be unveiled in this quantitative analysis?
Nothing much, other than what was once an art-form will suffer yet another reduction into a somewhat less effective means for moving markets, and
manipulating populations. And that, in the end, is really the goal...
What a hustler is able to do every day on the streets to grab a few bucks for a beer, or a hit of heroin, and what poets and prostyletizers have been
banking on for millennium, it’s doubtful DARPA will be able to add anything new with an MRI or EKG strapped to the head of some already desensitized
citizen, or college kid looking for a couple of extra dollars to pay rent.
In other words, they’ll never equal the persuasive power of talent.
edit on 8/11/11 by Astyanax because: of poor communications