Neuroscience in Advertising; When Does it Become Mind Control?

Concept manipulation of consciousness. Image created using multiple exposures on light background.

By now you’re probably used to how predictive advertising has become, but it probably felt intrusive at first. Advertisers have always used subtle tactics to convince you to buy things, but now the privacy boundary is increasingly blurred. While it’s somewhat known that advertising finds its roots in propaganda, are developments in technology and neuroscience changing the fundamental nature of marketing into something that borders on mind control or manipulation?

The foundational elements of public relations and advertising were developed by a man named Edward L. Bernays, who happened to be the nephew of none other than Sigmund Freud. Freud gave a copy of his General Introductory Lectures, his seminal work on psychoanalysis, to Bernays as a gift in the nascent phase of his career.

Bernays was intrigued by Freud’s research, notably the idea that irrational forces drive human behavior. He took the idea and parlayed it into what he referred to as “engineering consent,” a concept that instead of bowing to consumer demands, cultivated them.

Lucky Strike ad

Bernays was first hired for a Lucky Strike campaign in which he created social trends to convince more people, particularly women, to smoke. He realized cigarettes exemplified male power, so he staged a campaign to empower women to smoke cigarettes by inviting a group of young female Vogue employees to light up on New York’s 5th avenue in a show of protest.

He referred to the campaign and the cigarettes involved as “Torches of Freedom.” Later, when the ladies expressed distaste for the green color of the packaging, he staged a number of events to make the color green fashionable.

This type of consent engineering was manipulative. And there’s evidence that Bernays likely knew of the dangers of smoking in those days as he would destroy his wife’s cigarettes whenever he found them at home. Despite this knowledge, and later becoming a public opponent of tobacco, he pitched Lucky Strikes as having a slimming effect and claimed they were soothing on the throat. He even wrote a book on his tactics blatantly titled, Propaganda, that would later inspire the Nazis.

Bernays used fear tactics, false or deceptive advertising, and what can only be referred to as social mind control tactics to sell products, even if they were dangerous or disingenuous.

This set the framework for the modern tactics that continue to perpetuate this trend, and while false or misleading advertising is pretty well-regulated by the FTC, the idea of engineering consent still persists. So is it possible consent may be engineered against our own will?

Mind Control Techniques Through Neuroscience

Today, neuroscientists are at the forefront of developing incredibly exciting technology, with the potential to correct for certain cognitive disorders and diseases. Some are undertaking the daunting task of mapping out the brain and its endless neural pathways, while others focus on the more incremental steps that may one day lead there, such as interfaces for telepathically controlling our mobile devices.

Often, this technology parallels the development of artificial intelligence, with programmers attempting to reverse engineer the brain or mirror the layout of neural networks in computer systems. This type of network control is being compared laterally to brain function, with the idea that if you inject energy into one part of a digital network, it should influence another.

Scientists applied this with a technique called deep brain stimulation, or DBS, used to treat those suffering from Parkinson’s and obsessive compulsive disorder. They found unusual activity in the fronto-striatal circuit to be responsible for obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can be normalized with DBS. However, this type of energy injection can cascade across the brain, causing unintended effects.

Technology’s Creeping Mind Control

Mind control could be defined in a few ways, but the common conception requires the alteration of a person’s behavior in an observable manner, without that person’s permission. And typically, that lack of consent is known or desired by the one administering a mind-controlling function.

Not too long ago, researchers conducted a study measuring the effects electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones had on the brain. The study was predicated on the question of whether or not it was possible to control somebody’s mind with a cell phone.

Now, the definition of mind control, in this case, wasn’t as nefarious as the image that comes to mind when we think of dystopian sci-fi movies or Manchurian candidates but was instead much simpler. Can electromagnetic radiation from cell phones have an effect on mental behavior when transmitted at the proper frequency?

Their result turned out to be affirmative. The cell phone radiation stimulated alpha waves in the brain, particularly in areas closest to where the phone was being held. These types of waves are produced when we sleep, in wakeful states where we’re daydreaming, or when switching from external thinking to internal thinking. It’s even more unsettling when you find out that the study was conducted using, a now very obsolete, Nokia 6110.

Today, advertising is eerily predictive in our online browsing, but the majority of it is simply based on your search history. If you’ve searched for a product on the internet, you’ll probably be served an advertisement for that product or something similar, almost instantly. This can be avoided to a certain extent by clearing the cookies in your browser, going incognito, or using a Tor browser.

But questions have arisen recently as to whether advertisers take it too far by actively recording your conversations without your permission, so as to pick up on what to market to you. As technology becomes more intrinsically connected in our lives, what might be the next furtive marketing tactic or medium in advertising?

Interfaces able to read brain waves have been in development for a while and are getting closer to market launch. While advertising is already heavily reliant on cultivating or playing on consumers’ emotions, what if those emotions could be sensed physically through devices that constantly measure our biometrics. Might this already be happening?



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Mass Media Mind Control

I have had wide and varied interests since a very young age and have loved learning all of my life. Simply, I believe life should be lived as a great adventure of growth and learning in every way. In science, my interests started in crystallography and minerals and progressed through the several branches of science into politics, philosophy, religion and all things esoteric.

What is Mind Control?

In the late 1980s, the most interesting research I began exploring was on mind effects or, more popularly, mind control. My interest grew out of the misuses of the information released in the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s dealing with the CIA programs in this area. At the same time, the positive possibilities for these new technologies were also exciting. Stimulating optimum human performance, accelerated learning, meditation, relaxation, and focus could all be improved. In fact, even so-called altered states could be enhanced or even stimulated. The most fascinating possibilities, however, were even more startling.

The idea that perhaps we could stimulate what is now referred to in some literature as “anomalous human capability” or, in the past referred to as ESP or extrasensory perceptions, may be possible.

In fact, this may be the next evolution of humans on earth as many of us are acknowledging and science is proving.

Control of the Mind and Body

The predominant brain wave frequencies indicate the kind of activity taking place in the brain. There are four basic groups of brain wave frequencies that are associated with most mental activity. The first, beta waves, (13-35 Hertz or pulses per second) are associated with normal activity. The high end of this range is associated with stress or agitated states that can impair thinking and reasoning skills. The second group, alpha waves (8-12 Hertz), can indicate more relaxation. Alpha frequencies are ideal for learning and focused life form energy. The third, theta waves (4-7 Hertz), indicate mental imagery, access to memories and internal mental focus. This state is often associated with young children, behavioral modification and sleep/dream states. The last, ultra slow, delta waves (.5-3 Hertz), are found when a person is in deep sleep.

The general rule is that the brain’s predominant wave frequency will be lowest, in terms of pulses per second, when relaxed, and highest when people are most alert or agitated.

What is Entrainment?

External stimulation of the brain by electromagnetic means can cause the brain to be entrained or locked into phase with an external signal generator. Predominant brain waves can be driven or pushed into new frequency patterns by external stimulation. In other words, the external signal driver or impulse generator entrains the brain, overriding the normal frequencies, and causing changes in the brain waves. Changes in brain waves cause changes in brain chemistry; which then cause changes in brain outputs in the form of thoughts, emotions or physical condition.

As you are driven, so you arrive – brain manipulation can be either beneficial or detrimental to the individual being impacted depending on the level of knowledge or the intentions of the person controlling the technology.

Is it Possible to Train Consciousness?

Consciousness training is also a big theme in cults, religious organizations, and others pursuing the “new age.” Science has now gained a greater understanding of how the mind and brain work so that what used to take years, or even decades, to achieve, can now be mastered in weeks, days or even minutes. For instance, in 1996 a method and apparatus for the use in achieving alpha and theta brainwave states and effecting positive emotional states in humans were developed.

Two years later another patent was issued which could create desired consciousness states: In the training of an individual to replicate such states of consciousness without further audio stimulation, such states may be transferred from one human being to another through the imposition of one person’s EEG, superimposed on desired stereo signals and onto another individual, by inducement of a binaural beat phenomenon.

Is Thought Transference Possible?

This is interesting in that it speaks to the ideas alluded to earlier by the military in changing the memory of a person by imposing computer-manipulated signals which would integrate with the normal memory of a person. The possibility of abuse is obvious and the opportunity for personal advancement is also great.

Consider the possibility of gaining education by the transfer of data directly into the human brain by these new methods rather than the standard methods of learning. A serious consideration in developing these types of memory transfer systems will be the fact that they bypass normal intellectual filters – they are deposited into the brain as fact, without question or careful consideration. What happens when new information conflicts with existing information? Would it be possible to include hidden information meant to unduly influence things like religious beliefs, politics or consumption of goods and services or politics?

Ethical Questions Abound

The possibilities are immense and the ethical and moral questions surrounding these matters equally large. We can no longer avoid the debate; in fact, the debate is lagging far behind the scientific advancements. In the interim, there are some simple things we could all do to enhance our own, or our children’s, learning capacity by applying simple and available knowledge. For instance: “researchers at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at University of California, Irvine, have determined that 10 minutes of listening to a Mozart piano sonata raised the measurable IQ of college students by up to nine points.” This is a simple thing of great use to anyone seeking self- improvement as an example.

There are several articles and materials that speak to the various ways that these technologies can be applied and used beyond the scope of this article. Let’s get to the media applications.

The Use of Media

Radio, TV, the Internet, the power grid, cell systems or any other electromagnetic carrier can be used to carry a signal that will influence the behaviors of most people in close proximity to the signal. What such signals can do is cause a person, for instance, to drop into a light altered state. Like when people come home from work, sit in front of the TV and watch the nightly news feed. Within a few moments someone begins saying to you, “honey, dinners ready.” They hear nothing… they are no longer watching the “programming;” they are being programmed with the latest values, beliefs, and ideas being pressed into the consciousness of most people through media.

By oscillating a signal in a certain way, emotional states can easily be reformed so that the reaction to the advertising, political propaganda or “news” is as predicted by those generating it across the broad population as intended by them.

In other words, it is about control and manipulation. It is really very simple. People in psychology understand the Frequency Following Response (FFR). When applied to advertise or any other media, it is incredibly compelling.

Refined Control Tactics

Much more can be done with this technology in terms of the information density that can be sent in on such carriers. The objective of many military planners is to be able to even transfer thought and memory sets. These kinds of technology when applied to media particularly when coupled with mass surveillance of the population this allows those in control of such technologies to have profound effects on a highly individualized basis. This delivery system can be tailored to an individual person to have specific influences on that individual personality type and subtype.

The predictability of behavior for the target of the technology is so refined that is better at predicting an individual’s future behavior they could about themselves. Think about this for a moment.

Perpetual Worry as a Means of Imprisonment

Yet the simplest mechanism for inhibiting higher mind functions, peak performance, and anomalous human capabilities is to just keep people in a constant state of worry, agitation, and fear. Sound familiar? In these states, it is not possible to reach a higher state of awareness. These emotional states do not allow the brain to operate in a manner that will allow this possibility. Fear is the adversary and is at the root of the misuses of these technologies. The government fears an enlightened population where the light of truth shines within its darkest corners. An awakened population cannot be resisted by structures based on fear.

The Next Evolution of Humankind

After 40 years of research in the open literature and opportunities to meet and spend the time needed with the best bio-physicists in the world has allowed me insight into this area. During my time with the Lay Institute in Dallas, I put together a private conference on mind effects with some of the best people in the world. The surprise was not a story about controlling people and manipulating populations, although everyone agreed this was the case in the 21st century in so many ways. The biggest insight had to do with the next evolution of humankind.

Voiced first by the late sister, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, in her presentation about her belief that in what man was trying to create in electronics were already latent in every person waiting to be awakened. The theme was repeated in every presentation that explored the possibilities of reclaiming our birthright in terms of what we are as human beings and the endless possibilities that occur when we begin to recognize ourselves.

As we evolve and grow within the framework of this reality we also are beginning to recognize in the science of consciousness and what we know…we are more than we think, and we are beyond what we know. Together we change the world by fearlessly knowing that we each have all that we need to engage the world and are not alone in it. Our humanity is in fact our very salvation if we can recognize and alter our awareness.

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