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Friday, September 7, 2012

POLITICAL HYPNOSIS

BRYCE ON POLITICS

- How voters are really being persuaded to vote.

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If you have ever seen Alfred Hitchock's 1960 movie, "Psycho," you undoubtedly will remember the shower scene. What makes it legendary is not just the act of the woman's murder (played by Janet Leigh), but how Hitchcock shot the scene which was about 30 different camera angles in 30 seconds. This, coupled with a soundtrack of screeching violins and other string instruments, made for a horrific montage of images in a short period of time. Hitchcock wasn't simply trying to show how a murder was committed, he also wanted to impress upon the viewers the brutality of the crime. For this he was highly successful. The scene was considered so shocking at the time, that women across the country became reluctant to take showers after seeing the movie. It left an indelible impression on a lot of people's minds. Through film, Hitchcock had found a way to stimulate the minds of his viewers through a series of fast paced images as opposed to a lengthy narrative. There was no special message, just an image of horror.

On a recent visit to the local cineplex I sat through several trailers for upcoming movies. These are, of course, short commercials that attempt to wet the appetite of the viewers to see a picture. If you study such previews carefully, the pace is rather fast and loaded with images aimed at triggering a response from the viewer's brain. Curious, when I returned home I researched some of the latest trailers on the Internet to see how many images they processed. Here's what I found:

"The Dark Knight" - 2:11 in length - 67 images - 1.95 seconds each

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" - 2:32 in length - 101 images - 1.5 seconds each

"Hope Springs" - 2:34 in length - 112 images - 1.37 seconds each

"Men in Black 3" - 1:56 in length - 69 images - 1.68 seconds each

This means there is a lot of images for the mind to fully digest, too many in fact. To make it work, filmmakers have learned such previews have to have some form of continuity to it as opposed to a set of unrelated images, thereby creating a flutter effect in storytelling which, in essence, is no different than the several picture frames per second that goes into showing a movie. The brain processes the images without thinking of the differences between pictures. In the previews though, the intent is to communicate an image as Hitchock did. The trailer portrays a very sketchy storyline, but concentrates on such things as comedy versus drama, good versus evil, symbols and glimpses of popular movie stars. In the trailers, most scenes show movement of some kind through panning or zooming; very few have static images. This is done to focus the mind's eye and keep the person moving from one image to the next. Continuity is enforced either by adding dramatic music and/or a deep voice saying, "In a world made up of..." or "For the adventure of a lifetime."

As with Hitchock's "Psycho," movie trailers communicate to viewers by creating indelible impressions as opposed to a lengthy description. By doing so, they are creating a Pavolov's dog effect to get the consumer to salivate on command.

Obviously, such tactics are not restricted to the movies and are an inherent part of television advertising as well, particularly in politics. Such commercials are not so much about communicating facts or the positions of a candidate as it is to create an impression in the voter's brain. Ultimately, such tactics represent a recognition that voters are intellectually lazy and need to be coerced into formulating an opinion. This, of course, is a prime example of brainwashing. Campaigners recognized a long time ago that the lion's share of voters base their decisions on images as opposed to issues and answers (sadly). Not surprising, political advertising is more about creating images as opposed to communicating any important policy or idea.

Next time you see a political advertisement on television or the Internet, consider the visual stimuli the producers are trying to invoke. Is it really trying to tell a message or conjur up an image with you? Did you really learn something or do you now have a fuzzy feeling that someone is good or bad? Actually, it is nothing but a form of hypnosis where you are being manipulated not by thoughts, but by impressions.

Just remember, "You are getting sleepy..."

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.