As citizens of capitalist, free-market societies, we tend tocelebrate choice and competition. However, in the 21stcentury, as we have gained more and more choices, we have alsobecome greater targets for persuasive messages from advertisers whowant to make those choices for us.
In Sold on Language, noted language scientists JulieSedivy and Greg Carlson examine how rampant competition shapes theways in which commercial and political advertisers speak to us. Inan environment saturated with information, advertising messagesattempt to compress as much persuasive power into as small alinguistic space as possible. These messages, the authors reveal,might take the form of a brand name whose sound evokes a certainimpression, a turn of phrase that gently applies peer pressure, ora subtle accent that zeroes in on a target audience. As more andmore techniques of persuasion are aimed squarely at the corner ofour mind which automatically takes in information without consciousthought or deliberation, does 'endless choice' actually mean theend of true choice?
Sold on Language offers thought-provoking insights intothe choices we make as consumers and citizens – and thechoices that are increasingly being made for us.
Click here for more discussion and debate on the authors’blog:http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sold-language
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About the Author
Julie Sedivy is Adjunct Professor of Linguistics andPsychology at the University of Calgary, Canada. She has publisheddozens of research articles on her experimental studies of languagecomprehension and production in children and adults. She has servedas Associate Editor for the journal Linguistics andPhilosophy, and as a consulting editor for the Journal ofExperimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.
Greg Carlson is Professor of Linguistics, Philosophy, andBrain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, US. Hehas authored or co-authored more than a hundred articles on naturallanguage semantics and psycholinguistics. He is the Editor ofLanguage, the journal of the Linguistic Society ofAmerica.
Table of Contents
About the Authors.
Preface. 1 The Power of Choice.
2 The Unconscious Consumer.
3 The Attentional Arms Race.
4 We Know What You’re Thinking.
5 Why Ads Don’t Say What They Mean (Or Mean What TheySay).
6 Acting Out.
7 Divide and Conquer.
8 The Politics of Choice.
What People are Saying About This
Tell most people that advertisers and politicians exploit language to manipulate desire and opinion, and they'll likely respond "So what else is new?" – and then go on to add, "though, mind you, I'm not fooled for an instant." But advertisers eat that self-assurance for breakfast food; they know that no audience is so easy to beguile as one that's smugly confident in its own sophistication. With engaging examples and lucid explanations, Sedivy and Carlson document the persuasive power that inhabits every corner of language – not just in the familiar puffery of adjectives like "new and improved," but the implications hidden in little words like your and the. Whether you're a student of language or just a consumer of it, you'll come away from Sold on Language a bit more humble and a lot more attentive – and by the by, with an appreciation of how much more there is to language than the wisdom we acquired in seventh grade at the end of Sister Petra's ruler.
— Geoffrey Nunberg, University of California at Berkeley, Language commentator, "Fresh Air," NPR
"In this wise and witty book, Julie Sedivy and Gregory Carlson use modern research in psychology, linguistics, and psycholinguistics to show us how little of what we choose is the result of reasoned and conscious deliberation. We like to think of ourselves as being in charge of our lives: we're not. Sold on Language may not be for everyone. But if you shop, it's for you. And if you vote, it's for you. Reading this book may be the best defense you have against being manipulated by others."
— Professor Barry Schwartz, Department of Psychology, Swarthmore College and author of ‘The Paradox of Choice’, and ‘Practical Wisdom.’
"In this wise and witty book, Julie Sedivy and Gregory Carlson usemodern research in psychology, linguistics, and psycholinguisticsto show us how little of what we choose is the result of reasonedand conscious deliberation. We like to think of ourselves as beingin charge of our lives: we're not. Sold on Language may notbe for everyone. But if you shop, it's for you. And if you vote,it's for you. Reading this book may be the best defense you haveagainst being manipulated by others."— Professor Barry Schwartz, Department ofPsychology, Swarthmore College and author of ‘The Paradoxof Choice’, and ‘Practical Wisdom’
"Via engaging prose and scientific evidence, Sedivy and Carlsonhave made a noteworthy contribution by providing fresh and deepinsights into something we thought we'd already understood."—Dr Robert B. Cialdini, Author of Influence:The Psychology of Persuasion
Tell most people that advertisers and politicians exploitlanguage to manipulate desire and opinion, and they'll likelyrespond "So what else is new?" – and then go on to add,"though, mind you, I'm not fooled for an instant." But advertiserseat that self-assurance for breakfast food; they know that noaudience is so easy to beguile as one that's smugly confidentin its own sophistication. With engaging examples and lucidexplanations, Sedivy and Carlson document the persuasive power thatinhabits every corner of language – not just in the familiarpuffery of adjectives like "new and improved," but the implicationshidden in little words like your and the. Whetheryou're a student of language or just a consumer of it, you'll comeaway from Sold on Language a bit more humble and a lot moreattentive – and by the by, with an appreciation of how muchmore there is to language than the wisdom we acquired in seventhgrade at the end of Sister Petra's ruler.— Geoffrey Nunberg, University of California atBerkeley, Language commentator, "Fresh Air," NPR
Language comes to us brilliantly easily. How else could childrenbe learning new words at the incredible rate of 10 a day? But thatease of learning carries with it the risk that we will be obliviousto the power of words – as written or spoken by others– to control our behavior. To all who might want to protectthemselves against that risk, I say: read this book.—Jay Ingram, author of Talk, Talk, Talk,Canada