Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Episode 25: Shifting That Window

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I feel the need to explain myself. Well, to explain myself in greater detail. I've already revealed that I suffer an irrational hatred of commercials. That was revealed way back in the first episode. In this Episode 25: Shifting That Window, I dive a bit into what I believe is most responsible for making both commercials effective, and for what makes protest of them also effective: our human tendency to socially conform to the opinions of our peers. Further, I do feel a need to note why outrageous statements of opinion can be effective, even necessary, to discussion and debate.

The first psychological phenomenon I will address is the Asch conformity experiment results. A later refinement of Asch using the basic methodology but including an fMRI scanner for a real-time look into how the subjects' brains were working was underdone in 2005.

Next, I take most of the episode describing as entertainingly as possible a phenomenon named for its founder, the Overton Window, where opinions can be shifted with a concentration of focus of a type rarely, for me, discussed openly enough. It is from this Overton Window practice that I attempt to justify my strategic use of hyperbole and the occasional outrageous statement.

Music in this episode: Omyiga, "Confirm Friend Request"; and a few snippets, one from The Color and the Sound's "Graves"; the other a very brief "Ha Ha Ha Ha" from the Bee Gees. Closer today again from Mistle Thrush.


  1. Good stuff.

    Would be interesting to see more discussion of how advertisers themselves use this effect (how they push the boundaries of what sorts of marketing behavior are considered acceptable to push this "window" in a direction they favor).

    One (indirectly related) topic I'd like to see discussed on this podcast is the topic of market segmentation. I've seen quite a bit of discussion of that in the context of criticism of Lego (though obviously they're just one example of a larger trend).

    The issue of market segmentation is related to several issues where advertisers are leaning on the Overton window, like the issue of advertisements directed at children, the issue of whether media companies should produce material for a "general audience", and the issue of what media companies do to find out more information about their audience. But it's also connected to broader social / political issues, political and social structures that divide people into groups with rigid norms are great for market segmentation!

    Actually, I read The Feminine Mystique recently, and one of the more interesting chapters was the chapter about advertising (Chapter 9, "The Sexual Sell"), in which Friedan suggests much of the impetus for the 1950s-era backlash against first-wave feminism came from marketers who benefited from having a class dedicated to buying household goods (and preferably viewing housework as the sort of occupation that requires a large suite of specialized products).

    1. Thanks, L33t! Lots of stuff to digest.

      I have planned an episode exploring more the psychological mechanisms that make ads effective whether or not the Overton Window is affected. There are a few pretty well-known tendencies that make for some entertaining telling.

      And you're right; market segmentation is a ripe topic, especially when social norms are Disney-washed for whatever reason—perhaps the most influential is just to simplify the ad campaigns! "Cleavage girls, ripped abs boys. Next!"

      The creation of the housewife as a passive creature who constantly re-invents the home is also a fascinating topic for me. Once housewives had to dedicate so much of their time just keeping a house sanitary. Once the gadgetry made that easier, how could the wives be kept busy? Hmmm. . . . Yes, a ripe sub-topic indeed. Hmmm. . . .