Implanting False Memories — Good for Training, Bad for Marketing?

By | May 30, 2011

I came across an interesting post today entitled “Study Demonstrates False Memories Implanted Via Advertising” (which referred to an earlier post at Wired) about a research study I Imagine I Experience, I Like: The False Experience Effect (the odd part is that people say it is published in the Journal of Consumer Research, but I can’t find it in vol. 38 there).

What immediately struck me on my first reading was possibly two opposite feelings it evoked based on the same mechanism, that is, re-creating an experience that results in (‘implanted’) false memories.  In the advertising domain, it made me feel like implanting false memories is a sneaky and almost immoral thing, that is, trying to manipulate our mind towards the product.  In the training domain (especially with simulations), however, we actively strive to re-create experiences exactly for the purpose of having the viewer develop and retain the skills.

This is the crux of why I believe product simulation marketing can be so effective — it employs the same mechanism.  In the study, the authors achieved the results using a ‘high-imagery commercial’, but I think it’s not a big leap from there to a more immersive experience using simulation.  I can see how making the right type of advertising about a product, in which the viewer solves a problem using that product, could implant the memory in the viewer that he or she has solved the problem with that product –thereby making the useful connection for the marketer.  While this may sound a bit slimy, I think it all depends on how much one considers such content as manipulative or helpful.

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