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Education

How a marketing guru from 1950 instilled a fear of 'mind control' that still exists today

Are companies trying to brainwash us?

targeted ads, social media ads

Ads, ads, ads, ads.

You might not know the name James Vicary, but odds are you know about his experiment, at least indirectly.

In 1957, the market researcher claimed to have exposed thousands of unsuspecting moviegoers in a New Jersey theater to a series of phrases like “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” that flashed across the screen in the fraction of a second as they watched a film. These images allegedly increased the sale of popcorn by 57.5% and Coca-Cola by 18.1%, despite passing far too quickly for viewers to consciously notice them.

Vicary’s findings soon became publicized and induced a widespread, decades-long dystopian fear that secret messages lurked beneath the surfaces of our favorite songs, movies and TV shows, insidiously coercing us to do things without conscious consent. Primarily, to buy things we probably don’t actually want.


In an age where we are now inundated with ads, this kind of manipulation understandably feels quite plausible. Especially when you take into consideration those highly sus product promotions that always seem to appear right after having an adjacent conversation about said product. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have suddenly seen ads for washing machines after telling a friend it was “laundry day.”

However, while there is a deeper meaning hiding beneath Vicary’s experiment, it might not be nearly as doomsday-centric as people may think.

In 1962, Vicary revealed that his findings were falsified as a gimmick, having next-to-no supporting evidence. Subsequent researchers would find that, at best, subliminal messaging was effective with already well-known and at least somewhat popular products, and in very strict laboratory conditions. If anything, the discovery of hidden messages were more closely linked to confirmation bias than an uncovered agenda.

But still, the damage had been done, and panic over mental autonomy ensued.

This fear remains so prevalent today that a study published in 2021 revealed that people shared a “remarkable agreement” that their minds are being actively manipulated by supermarkets, car dealerships, political campaigns, scientists and researchers, therapists, and social media, all outside of their conscious awareness or control.

via GIPHY

That said, the topic is not so black and white. Even if companies aren’t sneaking little “eat me, drink me” captions into our newsfeeds, there are a million clever tactics used to get our attention and make us become emotionally invested in their products.

And sure, maybe Coca-Cola isn’t performing Jedi mind tricks on our psyche, but it would be naive to disregard the power that social media holds in terms of its influence. Take a look at how many more young girls today with unbridled access to Instagram report feelings of low body image and depression, if there’s any doubt. Or at how many more conspiracy theorists there are. The way we think might not be controlled by outside forces, but it is certainly impacted by them, especially if we don’t practice awareness and literacy.

via GIPHY

Even if Vicary’s experiment was a hoax, it has illuminated some kernels of truth that remain important, especially as the need to weed out potential misinformation becomes more of a daily necessity. Whether evil corporations want to steal our souls, or we simply want to not live in fear, discernment is key.

Pedro Pascal and Bowen Yang can't keep a straight face as Ego Nwodim tries to cut her steak.

Most episodes of “Saturday Night Live” are scheduled so the funnier bits go first and the riskier, oddball sketches appear towards the end, in case they have to be cut for time. But on the February 4 episode featuring host Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian,” “The Last of Us”), the final sketch, “Lisa from Temecula,” was probably the most memorable of the night.

That’s high praise because it was a strong episode, with a funny “Last of Us” parody featuring the Super Mario Brothers and a sketch where Pascal played a protective mother.

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AMC Theaters/Youtube, Variety/Twitter

AMC announced that it would be implementing a new three-tier ticketing system.

AMC Theaters, America’s largest movie theater chain, announced on Feb 6 that it will be adopting different ticket prices based on seat location.

Moviegoers will have three tiers to choose from based on sightline of the movie screen—Preferred Sightline, set in the middle at the highest price point, Value Sightline, set in the front of the auditorium at the lowest price, and Standard Sightline, which is basically everything else (including the back seats, which are perhaps the most commonly picked) set at the traditional cost of a ticket.

In other words…heartbreak will feel more expensive in a place like this…or less, depending on where you sit



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Pop Culture

Keanu Reeves shocks a small-town pub by stopping in for a pint and taking photos with the staff

“So today we had a surprise visitor for lunch. What a lovely man he was, too."

Keanu Reeves in São Paulo, Brazil, 2019.

Keanu Reeves has a reputation as one of Hollywood’s nicest celebrities. Recently, he cheered up an 80-year-old fan who had a crush on him by calling her on the phone. He’s also bought an ice cream cone for a fan to give an autograph on the receipt and crashed a wedding to take photos with the bride and groom.

He’s also an incredible humanitarian who gave up a big chunk of his money from "The Matrix" to a cancer charity.

The “John Wick” star was his usual gracious self over the weekend when on Saturday, February 4, he and a friend walked into The Robin Hood pub in Tring, Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside of London.

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via Pexels

A mother puts a fresh diaper on her baby.

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When the humidity level rises in the diaper, the graphite and the urine are absorbed by the paper and it turns on a sensor powered by a small lithium battery. The sensor then sets the alarm on an app that parents download onto their phones.

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Pop Culture

Kelly Clarkson and Pink's gorgeous unplugged 'What About Us?' duet came with a timely​ message

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry…"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson teamed up for a sweet acoustic version of "What About Us?"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson are both known for having powerhouse voices that can belt at incredible ranges but also soften for a sweet ballad. Put the two of them together, and…well, dang.

On Feb 6, Clarkson featured Pink on her daytime talk show, in which she often sings with musical guests. The two superstars sang several acoustic duets with pitch-perfect harmonies, prompting fans of both artists to clamor for a collaborative album.

One song they sang together was Pink's "What About Us?" Pink previously described the song to The Sun in 2017: "The world in general is a really scary place full of beautiful people. Humans are resilient and there's a lot of wonderful—like I said in the song—'billions of beautiful hearts' and there are bad eggs in every group. And they make it really hard for the rest of us."

In the intro to their duet, Clarkson asked Pink about the impetus behind her writing the song.

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry and people are being forgotten," Pink shared. "People are being counted out and their rights are being trampled on just because a group of people doesn't believe in them."

"Like, I don't understand how so many people in this world are discounted because one group of people decided they don't like that," she continued. "And I won't—I won't have it. One of the most beautiful things that my dad taught me was that my voice matters and I can make a difference, and I will."

The lyrics of the song seem to address the political leaders and decision-makers who hold people's lives in their hands as they pull the levers of power. It's a beautiful song with an important message wrapped up in gorgeous two-part harmony.

Enjoy:

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

"It's a me."

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