Published on April 1, 2020

How the Media’s Sleeper Effect Manipulates You?

When you go to the store to buy some chips or a soda, do you think why you're choosing that specific product? Do you just like the taste? Did you see an ad that sold you a feeling or a lifestyle or has the media unconsciously changed your opinion. Hello everyone and welcome to In this article, we're going to learn about the media's sleeper effect.

The media tidal wave

Think back to the commercials you watched everyday. You encounter an overwhelming amount of advertisements on a daily basis. On average, you waste a full hour of every day watching ads.

Of course, you don't remember most of them. You remember the show you were watching or the game you were playing, but the ads, they're just a blur in your memory. You tune them out like background noise, like the cars honking outside your window or the dogs barking down the streets. You don't remember them, you barely pay attention to them yet.

Every advertisement has a powerful effect on you. Whether you like it or not, the media influences your opinions. It changes your preferences. It even controls your lifestyle. It may not always be obvious or direct, but it's still happening. You just take those car commercials you see every day, how many of them really convinced you to buy a new car? Probably, none.

Just like none of those pharmaceutical ads suddenly inspire you to go see your doctor, but each advertisement you ingest slowly, but surely alters your perspective. You can't see it happening and you'll hardly ever notice the difference, but your mind is being made up for you.

The tricks of the trade

How do they do it? How does the media manipulate your life? People think advertising is simple and straightforward, but it's a lot more complicated than you think. Commercials don't just show you a product and expect you to buy it. Some do, but those ads aren't the most effective in the long term. They're great for a temporary burst of business, but over time, the hype around any new product will just die down and people will quickly go back to their old routine. This makes a lot more sense in context.

Let's look at an example, imagine a soda company makes a new line of low-calorie drinks. They want to get the word out there. So, they make a commercial that shows off how great their new soda tastes. You see the commercial on TV and in the moment you think to yourself, that soda looks pretty good, but a couple of days go by and you forget all about that commercial. So, when you finally go to the store, you end up buying the same soda that you always buy.

So, to make sure this doesn't happen, the best commercials have to be a lot sneakier. They use advanced persuasion techniques to help their message stick. Some ads will sell you on a lifestyle, instead of a product. They show you this fantasy life filled with family fun and luxury and that association subtlety changes your opinion of their product.

If you want proof, just think about how many car companies spend 90% of their commercial talking about anything, but the actual car. Other ads Lodge themselves in your memory by doing something really strange. They make themselves less persuasive in a way that persuades more people.

The power of the sleeper effect

The sleeper effect is one of the best-kept secrets of the advertising industry. It's actually been around since the 1940s, when it was first discovered by Carl Hovland and his colleagues. At the time, Hovland was researching how the media affected people's opinions of World War Two. His data revealed that certain ads were ineffective at first, but had a significant impact over time.

In other words, your opinion might be exactly the same after your first viewing and even your second and your third, but as more time goes by, that message will have a larger and larger effect on you. It's worms its way into your brain changing the way you think, behave and live your life. So, how does it work?

In his next batch of experiments, Carl Hovland found that the sleeper effect needs two things to function: the first ones is repetition. These ads get played all the time. You may not remember them, but you've been watching these sleeper ads every day for weeks or months at a time. Just think about the jingles that you can't stop humming, the catchphrases and phone numbers that keep popping into your head. You don't know where they came from, but they're always there.

For the second step, we need something to soften the blow, to suppress the initial impact of our ad. Scientists call this device the discounting cue. Whether you realize it or not, you've seen this device in action hundreds of times. You know how at the end of most political ads, they tell you that it was paid for by their opponent. Doesn't that make the ad less believable?

At first, you might have bought into their costs, but when you see that, you pull back a little. That obvious lack of credibility means most people won't change their minds. You won't really internalize their message. So, why would these political ads include something that obviously hurts their cause? That message acts as a discounting cue. It undermines the effectiveness of the ad, because they're not trying to persuade you and they don't care if you leave the commercial feeling motivated.

Psychologists call this process dissociation in your mind. You naturally separate the message from its discounting cue and with out that cue, the message becomes much more persuasive. There's nothing stopping their ad from completely changing your opinion. So, even if you know a commercial isn't credible, it can still have a major effect on you.

Media manipulation in action

One of the most famous examples of the sleeper effect comes from a group of psychologists in the 1970s. Their study was pretty simple. A sample of college students had to read a controversial news article. The article was created to influence their opinion like any normal advertisement, but at the end of every article, there was a note. The note explained to the reader that the article was filled with inaccurate data. After reading something like that, what would you think? Would you still put any faith in that news article?

You probably would just not on purpose and that's exactly what happened to this sample of college students. They knew perfectly well that the article was incredible, yet their opinions still changed. The endnote scared them off at first, but over time they gravitated toward the articles controversial message.

The discovery of this bizarre social phenomenon changed the way that the media approached advertising, because now, they don't have to rely on conscious persuasion. Normally, when you see something convincing, you can feel yourself changing your mind. You know you just watched a powerful advertisement or heard a charismatic speaker, but the sleeper effect unlocks a deeper level of control.

Now, the media can unconsciously stimulate long-term change. They can manipulate your opinion without you realizing what's happening.

Re-purposing the sleeper effect

It's been decades since Hovland first discovered the sleeper effect. Since then, the influence of the media has grown exponentially. In the 21st century, experts have used Hovland's theory to develop new ways to delay and strengthen their messages. Delayed fear is a great example and has become more popular in recent years.

If an advertisement wants to present something as dangerous or scary, what kind of commercials should they make? You'd think, they'd want something terrifying, something that really sticks with their audience, but those ads rarely have a lasting effect on their viewers.

Instead, the media undermines its own message with humor, bad quality or some other discounting cues. This kind of commercial won't leave anyone shaking in their boots, but it helps their message stick in people's heads.

As your constant exposure to certain brands companies and influencers transformed the way you think. It's tempting to say no one likes to think their views may not be their own, but that's the power of the sleeper effect. You'll keep thinking they're your choices your opinions and your habits, but the media has been worming its way into your mind for your whole life and it isn't going to stop anytime soon now.

Thank you for reading this article and be sure to consult our website to stay informed about our coming articles, because more incredible content is on the way.

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