Language in Advertising:
What Madison Avenue knows about how your mind works

Nikole Patson-Huffman
Department of Psychology
The Ohio State University

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Humorist Dave Barry wrote in a newspaper column Tips for Writers that a TV commercial for a cereal such as Froot Loops would show it "sitting on a table next to some actual food such as eggs, and the announcer always says: 'Part of this complete breakfast.'" Barry noted that "…couldn't they make essentially the same claim if, instead of Froot Loops, they put a can of shaving cream there, or a dead bat?"

At this Science Café, we will discuss the ways in which our mind "fills in the blanks" for us. We know that cereal companies use the phrase "part of this complete breakfast" in the hopes that we will take it to mean that cereal is a healthy breakfast choice. We will discuss how (and why) advertisers carefully choose words and craft sentences to get you to make the right inferences.

The advertisers are aware of how your mind operates—you might as well be, too!

Here is an audio recording of this science cafe in mp3 format.