You turn off Highway 29 onto Trancas and head west. You take a right onto Jefferson and proceed for a half mile. Without even realizing it, you have just affected your subconscious mind. You’re likely to be more impatient and make hasty decisions based on immediate gratification. Let’s just say now’s not the time to decide how much to put into your 401 k plan.
You were exposed to a powerful and pervasive set of images on that drive—Wendy’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, all the fast food giants. And even if your will power is rock solid and you drive past them without stopping, they can still have an incredible amount of influence on your life.
That’s the findings of this very interesting report published in The Journal of Association for Psychological Science.
Researchers have known for some time that environmental cues can solicit corresponding behaviors…people exposed to the Apple logo came up with more creative solutions than subjects shown an IBM logo. So they set out to find out if the symbols of our fast food culture, with its emphasizes on time efficiency and immediate gratification, would affect the decisions people make.
They devised three simple tests to determine whether choices could be influenced by the exposure to fast food symbolism. Their goal was to see if the logos would induce time-saving behavior and cause their subjects to become less patient. In all three tests, whether the subjects were conscious of the symbols or not, it measurably affected their decisions.
As scientific abstracts go this one is relatively short and makes for interesting reading. I would suggest giving it a look when you have a chance. The experiments suggest that the unconscious goal of saving time embedded in fast food may have some unexpected consequences, whether you pull into the drive-thru or not.