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21-Dec-2017 05:19

he forces that Packard described have become more pervasive over the decades.

The soothing music we all hear overhead in supermarkets causes us to walk more slowly and buy more food, whether we need it or not.

In 1974, the Federal Communications Commission opined that the use of such messages was ‘contrary to the public interest’.

Legislation to prohibit subliminal messaging was also introduced in the US Congress but never enacted.

It is the competitive nature of our society that keeps us, on balance, relatively free.

But what would happen if new sources of control began to emerge that had little or no competition?

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Some of the persuaders want us to buy or believe one thing, others to buy or believe something else.Robert Epstein is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California.(1908), the American writer Jack London pictured a world in which a handful of wealthy corporate titans – the ‘oligarchs’ – kept the masses at bay with a brutal combination of rewards and punishments.To ‘Google’ something is to look it up on the Google search engine, and that, in fact, is how most computer users worldwide get most of their information about just about everything these days. Google has become the main gateway to virtually all knowledge, mainly because the search engine is so good at giving us exactly the information we are looking for, almost instantly and almost always in the first position of the list it shows us after we launch our search – the list of ‘search results’.

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That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages, even though they often number in the thousands, which means they probably contain lots of good information.According to Packard, US corporate executives and politicians were beginning to use subtle and, in many cases, or what Packard called ‘subthreshold effects’ – the presentation of short messages that tell us what to do but that are flashed so briefly we aren’t aware we have seen them.