Day 5/365: Once taboo, now a banality

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Good, now that I have your full and undivided attention, let’s talk about how advertisements make you buy things that you don’t need, just by using an old psychological trick. Just as I did in the title above.

Have you ever heard of Ivan Pavlov and his dogs? Pavlov was this smart Russian doctor that studied the digestive system of animals, especially dogs, by measuring the amount of saliva the dogs would produce when a certain food was presented to them.

After a while, the dogs would start salivating well before the food was presented to them, which almost drove Pavlov mad, but then he started wondering what the hell was happening?

Do not remain content with the surface of things — Ivan PAVLOV

Pavlov, without even knowing it, discovered one of the most efficient learning tricks in the psychological world, called classical conditioning. By definition, classical conditioning is when you take something like food, so an unconditioned stimulus, and pair it with a neutral stimulus, let’s say a ringing bell, and then feed the food to the dog while ringing that bell.

What happens is, after a while the dog learns that every time there’s food around that’s about to be served to him, the bell will ring. With enough exposure, or repetition, or conditioning the dog will produce the desired response, salivation, without the presence of food, just by hearing that bell ring.

Neat, right? Well, yes and no.

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Imagine an ad for a new car. You’re most likely to hear amazing engine sounds that the car produces (or not, you don’t really care) which startles you instantly, then see a beautiful woman next to it, which makes you horny and feeling both emotions at once, which creates desire. A desire to feel all of those things over and over again. At that point, your brain makes the association that if you get that car, you will ultimately get the nice girl and satisfy all of your emotional and physical urges.

In reality, all you do is buy a simple car. You don’t even want the car! It’s your brain’s job to associate a neutral stimulus (the girls and the nice sounds) with a response (your desire to feel pleasure over and over) and the unconditioned stimulus (the car like the one in the advertisement).

You’ve just been “Pavloved”!

The repetitiveness of ads

Why do you see those ads over and over and over again? Simply because classical conditioning works, and then after a while, it fails to work. Something to do with the response failing to appear after a few tries without the unconditioned stimulus (in this case seeing the ad itself) which is something that psychologists call Extinction.

What happens then? You need to be reconditioned, over and over again, until you buy the product. Or, more scientifically put, until you respond the way the advertisers want you to respond… which is, buy the damn car.

Yes, you are a subject of classical conditioning, and other kinds of conditionings all day long, especially when you look at ads.

The title? You assumed I was going to talk about something having to do with sex, which you immediately, subconsciously associated with pleasure, which is normal for most of us humans, so you didn’t even try to analyze the situation, but just clicked your mouse hoping for a reward, ergo, a juicy story about sex or something having to do with it. You dirty dog, you!

And because of all the “sex” in this article, now you know why you buy shit you never use, actually that you don’t even want in the first place. You’re welcome! Now hit that green Follow button if you want to own a supercar one day.

Thank you for your time!

My name is Gabriel Iosa, I’m a 25 years old travel enthusiast, food lover, Psychology student, full-time freelancer, writer and Instagram fanatic. You can follow me @gabrieliosa, and if you liked this post, give it exactly 48 claps!

I’m on a mission to write 365 articles in 2018. This is definitely the biggest writing challenge of my life so far. If you’d like to be part of the journey, please follow me here on for the daily posts!

365 Days Writing Challenge: -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4