Today’s Technology Review Published by MIT has a feature article – The New Science of Online Persuasion. Researchers are using Google Adwords to test the persuasive power of different messages. by KFC 04/26/2012.
The new idea is just an advanced form of an old idea; it is Adam Smith’s hidden hand made more visible in a Darwinian (actually Wallacean) evolutionary sense. When there are enough online hits on a given idea, which can be set up to require a reader’s response, then the number of click-throughs on that specific idea can be measured. The results can be compared to other ideas which also require a reader’s response. If there are enough hits and click-throughs coming in, a further refinement of the original idea can be had by making subtle variations in the web page presentation. Specific key words can be replaced with synonyms, or perhaps the length of the sentences can be varied making the basic idea appear more sophisticated or more simple, pictures can be modified or different models inserted. If there are enough hits coming in then it is possible to find if different geographical areas are responding in different ways to the variations. After some experience it becomes better known what the subtleties are which appeal to different audiences and to specific people.
These appeals to the public mind are nothing new and they date back to Classical Greek times and the development of the philosophical concept of rhetoric; but the new computerized system is more scientific than philosophical, more experimental than subjective and its effects are empirical rather than guessed at. It is more directed to individual persons and more callously manipulative because it becomes better known exactly how a person will respond. All to a good end of course, which is to sell more products to more people, you in particular, and thus to put more of your money in their pocket. Also, these new techniques can swing presidential elections.
Manipulation of your mind is reaching new levels of sophistication.