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Neural Attributes Affecting Rhetoric

Medium—Visual Dominance

The commercial appears on television; so, visual imagery is used throughout, and several visual cues stimulate various neural dynamics that all contribute to the positive message being conveyed. While some text appears and narration is heard, the most dominant mode is the visual. The images associated with the spokesperson, which I describe next; the images of the surrounding setting, and even the inclusion of the image of the dog, all appeal to certain neural dynamics and other attributes of the model.

Primary Spokesperson—Female

The female figure is principally associated with the Prior Experience attribute of the model; however, she also acts in conjunction with other items in the commercial to integrate other attributes of the model as well. She appeals to the hippocampus-placed memories and cultural perception of a mother as a caring person. Women in American culture are generally perceived as nurturing and caring; so, using a woman appeals to that memory and conditioning. This also alleviates any fears a viewer may have about fracking, because the amygdala is satisfied that this person does not represent a danger.

Further, her general appearance is not one that would elicit fear; while not displaying the general “beauty” of a professional model, she is not unattractive. She walks slowly through the terrain, suggesting enjoyment of the experience and appreciation for the environment. Her facial expression, when she speaks directly to the viewer about her career and desire for balance between fracking and nature, is of concern. The amygdala would not announce fear to the viewer.

The clothing she wears can be perceived either as professional or as casual; as a geologist, she spends much time outdoors carrying a backpack of tools of her trade. However, she may also represent someone on a casual nature hike, because such a person would dress similarly. This is re-enforced by the people she passes; they are dressed similarly but no mention of their career is made. They could easily be anyone who loves nature. As such, mirror neurons are stimulated; the viewer could easily be her.

She states that she is a geologist who works for the energy industry. This positions her as an expert in the field. Consequently, mirror neurons are engaged; while the viewer may not be an expert, the viewer values the expert’s testimony, and we want to be like her, striking a balance between nature and use of energy sources.

So, the spokesperson for the particular commercial, representing the energy industry, is also a representative of a caring, nurturing cultural image, and her facial expressions re-enforce that perception and her interaction with other people also re-enforces friendliness. These may trigger mirror neurons in the viewer as well; those who oppose fracking represent themselves as caring about nature.

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