Links for December 2009


Quote #249

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

Oscar Wilde, in ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’ (1895)

books intellectual self-defence politics psychology

Ad Nauseam

adnauseam I am reading Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture, edited by Carried McLaren and Jason Torchinsky. The book is a funny, smart and sometimes shocking collection of articles from Stay Free Magazine and blog. I first came across Stay Free when I was researching the psychology of advertising and was impressed by their sophisticated take on how adverts affect consumers’ decision making. They discuss in Ad Nauseam how advertising is often misunderstood, with people relying on an intuitive ‘Advertising doesn’t effect me’ view or swinging to the opposite extreme of the ‘Sinister Advertisers Manipulate Consumers with their Mind Control Tricks’ position. Both positions distract from the very real, but not magical, power of advertising.

The book has a great discussion of Wilson Bryan Key’s Subliminal Seduction, the book that launched the idea that subliminal, and often sexual, figures are embedded in random features of adverts such as in ice cube shadows. The idea of these ’embeds’ is nonsense, of course, but great fun to look for and a great distraction from the real persuasive content of the advert. The book also has a chapter on the origins of modern advertising practice in 19th century pharmaceutical advertising (the manufacturing of ailments for which ready made ‘cures’ can be sold has been covered by Vaughan on before, in relation to the mental health). Packed with critical analysis of the advertising industry, more informative history and some shocking examples of how consumerism has worked its way into many aspects of our daily lives, this book is essential intellectual self-defense, managing to be critical and aware without ever being sanctimonious or hysterical.

Cross-posted at

Me psychology

Do you dream of being chased?

Last night I had two dreams in which I was being chased (once by a tour-de-france cyclist in Venice, once by a giant snake in a field, since you ask). I was thinking that being-chased dreams are probably my brain rehearsing escape behaviours – a night-time training programme built in by evolution. Thinking more on it, I realised that I have never had a chasing dream, only being-chased dreams. Is this because being-chased is more adaptive to rehearse, or because of something peculiar to my idiosyncratic psychology? Let’s find out, please vote using the poll below:

Choose two anwers

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Links for november 2009