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The Reality Distortion Field Is Real 270

Posted by kdawson
from the roped-tied-and-branded dept.
TimeZone writes "Apparently, even subliminal exposure to the Apple logo can make you 'think different.' Researchers at Duke University subjected participants to subliminal images of the iconic Apple and IBM logos (during what subjects thought was a visual acuity test), and those who were shown the Apple logo generated more creative ideas after the test than did those who were shown the IBM logo. In a second test, subjects exposed to the Disney logo acted more honestly than those who saw an E! Channel logo." Here's a preprint of the paper (PDF) due for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research.
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The Reality Distortion Field Is Real

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  • by DrunkenTerror (561616) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:11PM (#22789566) Homepage Journal
    Nobody ever got fired after staring at the IBM logo.
  • So.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:11PM (#22789570)
    What does the "Microsoft" logo do to you (down there)?
  • Logos (Score:5, Funny)

    by doctortommy (1257868) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:15PM (#22789614)
    ...and the Microsoft logo caused test subjects to experience extreme confusion and frustration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The Microsoft logo cause some people to unexpectedly turn blue and die. Fortunately, a new device that induced a specially provided electric shock (ALTernate ConTroLed DELivery) would be immediately required to revive them.
    • "...and the Microsoft logo caused test subjects to experience extreme confusion and frustration."
      ... and the Apple logo caused people, men mostly, to lose weight in the wallet side of their rears.
  • Other logos (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:17PM (#22789628)
    Microsoft - made you more likely to be cruel to little animals
    Tux - made you grown a long beard and lose all your friends
    Novell - made you betray your friends
    Democrat donkey - made you find new ways to destroy yourself
    Republican elephant - made you question the value of an education

    What is next ?

    "Judge, I crashed my car because I stared at a Ferrari logo for too long." ?
  • by mikeabbott420 (744514) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:19PM (#22789652) Journal
    Or maybe this study is a steaming pile of platypus dung. See that there? Platypus Dung? that's creativity baby!
    • Indeed. This is not a scientific study, it's a bunch of marketers trying to "prove" that what they do matters. Journal of Consumer Research? Surely no conflict of interest there. In other news, a study backed by McDonald's proves that their food is actually good for you! Film at 11.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mikeabbott420 (744514)
        My rule of thumb is, unless the details of the methodology used are available and convincing, study means lie.
      • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:44PM (#22790450)

        Indeed. This is not a scientific study, it's a bunch of marketers trying to "prove" that what they do matters. Journal of Consumer Research? Surely no conflict of interest there. In other news, a study backed by McDonald's proves that their food is actually good for you! Film at 11.
        The Journal of Consumer Research [uchicago.edu] is a peer-reviewed academic journal put out by the University of Chicago Press. Some people can claim that it isn't "real science" or whatever, but the researchers certainly follow the scientific method and this study, like others published in the journal, has survived a peer review process overseen by its credentialed editorial staff [uchicago.edu].
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Thanks for the clarification. However, who are the peers? The journals 3 authors are: 1) Canada Research Chair in Social Cognition at University of Waterloo, 2) Professor of Marketing and Psychology at Duke University, 3) Professor of Marketing and Psychology at Duke University.

          I only skimmed the paper, and while I don't see signs of cheating, I still find the results suspect (the old "correlation is not causation" may apply here). Perhaps a statistician can chime in: how significant are these "statistic
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @09:44PM (#22791300) Journal
            It is said that the Apple logo is a tribute to Alan Turing, if more people knew this would the apple logo inspire people to eat poison apples?

            "Perhaps a statistician can chime in"

            Wether you personally accept the paper's conclusion or not is irrelevant. It does however conform to the scientific method and a Marketing Proffessor's 'peer' is likely to know a lot more about statistcs that you do ( judging from the questions in your post and the fact that my partner is a marketing prof.).

            On the subject of measuring creativity they use the same sort of tests that are used to study chimpanze creativity...

            From TFS: "Participants were subliminally exposed to images of either Apple or IBM brand logos and then completed a standard creativity measure, the "unusual uses test" (Guilford, Merrifield, and Wilson 1958). The unusual uses task allows for two tests of behavioral priming effects: First, the total number of uses generated serves as a measure of participants' motivation to be creative: If a goal to be creative is active, participants should generate a higher number of total uses. Importantly, these uses need not all be creative - just the sheer act of attempting to generate as many uses as possible is often used as a metric of creativity on this test (Eisenberger, Armeli, and Pretz 1998; Glover and Gary 1976) and is an excellent measure of the motivation to be creative. Second, the rated creativity of each use serves as an additional measure of creativity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by billcopc (196330)
          What ? You think peer-reviewed journals are immune to bias ? By their very nature they are biased, because you have a group of like-minded individuals reviewing each other's work. If they weren't like-minded, they wouldn't be collaborating on the project in the first place.

          It's quite possible that the test itself was slanted in favor of the desired outcome, if that's the general sentiment within the group. Nothing in this world is purely objective, nothing but math!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by peragrin (659227)
        If markters trying to prove what they do matters then they picked the wrong logo. try MSFT or intel logos. Apple is hip it makes people think that things don't have to be a cube farm, that cool toys can be had by anyone.

        MSFT needs help with that image. As most people think MSFT and get frustrated. When was the last time you enjoyed using windows? When was the last time you enjoyed using KDE/Gnome/Linux? Now when was the last time you enjoyed using your mac/ipod/iphone?

        for me about 5 minutes ago as i w
    • by porcupine8 (816071) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:25PM (#22790772) Journal
      Because obviously if you didn't know about any ways of measuring creativity, it means that there can't possibly be an entire field devoted to creativity research that's spent decades operationalizing aspects of it and developing valid and reliable tests for it?

      Which isn't to say we can measure it with 100% accuracy or that there's no debate still about what it is, what should be included, etc etc. But it's so nice of you to completely dismiss out of hand the very idea of measuring it in any way.

  • I knew it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by vodevil (856500) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:20PM (#22789672)
    I see my apple logo on my laptop all the time. People always tell me I'm full of shit, but I always explain that I'm full of great ideas. Now I have proof that I'm the one that's right, and they're full of shit.
  • by countSudoku() (1047544) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:20PM (#22789676) Homepage
    The RDF emanates from The Steve, not the Apple logo. Unless, of course, The Steve laid hands upon the device bearing the logo. It's all right in here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field [wikipedia.org]
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:20PM (#22789682)
    Apparently, even subliminal exposure to the Apple logo can make you 'think different.'

    Hence the reason all the new Mac users immediately go out and buy extra big designer tables for their lounges and a few African tribal relics to display in their hallways.

    It also makes them caffeine-addicted hermits since I usually see solitary Mac users sat in the darkest corners of Starbucks with a large chocca-flocca-socca-moccachino in front of them. And I know they're Mac users because no matter where I sit, they always make sure I can see the little logo.

  • by bagboy (630125) <neo@EINSTEINarctic.net minus physicist> on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:21PM (#22789700)
    has what reaction?
  • Well, until Steve Jobs says so. ;-)
  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:26PM (#22789758) Journal
    We've established that the reality distortion field is in fact correct (TFA), and that it self-evidently (look at Apple's recent sales [arstechnica.com]) is transmitted as a meme throughout technological society. We know that the human condition is regulated by culture [demon.co.uk] - that the human brain is evolving to cope with the phenomenal rate-of-change-of-culture it is being exposed to. In doing so, it must also cope with (adapt to) this reality distortion field created by Apple.

    Steve Jobs is screwing with your mind, people. And your children's nascent minds too. Be afraid (of non-shiny things). Be very afraid (of anything not cool).

    Simon.
  • by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:31PM (#22789810)
    By extrapolating these results, I assume that those shown a Windows logo got into their car, drove extremely slowly while telling those behind them to "please wait," and then crashed into a telephone pole due to a driver problem.
  • That certain logo made you want to claim other people's stuff as yours, but refuse to show the receipt because it's so damn obvious. And then file for bankrupcy.
  • of course the study was finished when one of the researchers "accidently" slipped the viagra logo into the projector. the rest, as they say, is history and nobody ever mentioned that study or the brick ever again.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      Well, I read somewhere (some dead-tree source, SciAm?) that they did research the effects of displaying nude female art in a workplace.

      Apparently it resulted in mildly increased productivity... Interestingly, this also motivated women for some reason.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        If you want to sell a magazine to a man, what do you do? Put a woman on the cover, of course.

        If you want to sell a magazine to a woman, what do you do? Put a woman on the cover, of course.

        It works for motivation too. Men want to show off. Women want to show up. You don't think they dress up when they go out for US, do you?
  • by Heembo (916647) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:41PM (#22789900) Journal
    Apple is the new Microsoft, Microsoft is the new IBM.
  • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:55PM (#22790050) Homepage Journal
    The research is neat, but essentially what they're showing is that they can validate pre-test measures of "creativity" and "honesty" using a priming technique.

    They chose the brands that they chose because Apple was rated as more creative a brand than IBM in pre-test:

    "As predicted, there was a significant difference in the extent to
    which Apple and IBM were perceived to be creative, t(23) = -4.91, p .001, with Apple receiving
    higher ratings (M = 7.62, SD = 1.23) than IBM (M = 4.17, SD = 2.12). Thus, pilot tests confirmed that in
    our college sample, Apple is believed to be more creative than is IBM. IBM, it is important to note, is
    not seen as particularly creative or uncreative; it is rated at approximately the mid-point of the scale."

    And because Disney is rated as being more "honest" than E!:
    "As predicted, there was a significant difference in the extent to
    which Apple and IBM were perceived to be creative, t(23) = -4.91, p .001, with Apple receiving
    higher ratings (M = 7.62, SD = 1.23) than IBM (M = 4.17, SD = 2.12). Thus, pilot tests confirmed that in
    our college sample, Apple is believed to be more creative than is IBM. IBM, it is important to note, is
    not seen as particularly creative or uncreative; it is rated at approximately the mid-point of the scale."

    It's not showing that people subliminally exposed to the Apple logo - regardless of prior beliefs - will be spontaneously more creative. It's showing that people spontaneously exposed to things that they (at least, a similar sample) feel reflect creativity will prime, behaviorally, creativity.

    It doesn't mean that people who work with Apple are more productive, or that people need to buy Apple to be creative. It's a neat implementation of priming on future behavior, but it's really showing that specific brands are associated with specific traits (and that those specific traits prime actions).
    • What I think you're saying is that people will themselves reflect what they believe the logo reflects when they subliminally see the logo. The association becomes a suggestion. You can't control the association (and therefore cannot control the suggestion) but what can be controlled is how blurred the line is between the two. Would that be correct?
      • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:37PM (#22790406) Homepage Journal
        Well, you could read their intro for a more in-depth analysis and discussion of priming, but I wouldn't call it a suggestion so much as I would call it bias to act in a certain way.

        The basic idea behind priming is that there is a large interconnected network of information and that activating one piece of information partially "boosts" other connected pieces of information. When you are prompted to act in new tasks, you have a higher likelihood to engage in actions that have this extra "boost" in activation.

        Geek Priming Example:
        In geek terminology, it's something like this. Suppose you were Google, and imagine you were designing a system to deliver targeted advertising to people. You had thousands of possible ads you could show someone, but you want the advertising to be more specific.

        Lets say you were choosing between just two companies that want to sell advertising today. One of these companies is called "Joe's Fisheries", and they have a special on Sole (a kind of fish). One of these companies is called "Joe's Shoe Supply", and they've got a special on Sole Repair (the bottom of your shoes).

        You might intercept an email about Soles, but you're not sure which sole it is. You don't want to be selling Fish to guys who need shoe repair, and you don't want to be selling Shoes to guys who want fish. On the other hand, other words in the email tell you if it's about shoes (like laces, or boots) and other words tell you if it's about fish (scales, salmon, whatever).

        Whatever your way of deciding is, you probabilistically weight Fish over Shoe (or vice versa) depending on some other cues. Then you show the ad you think is most appropriate.

        In a priming study, basically what they're doing is providing some bogus information to your same cortical networks that weight and categorize information. They're feeding you stimuli (like "scales", and "salmon"), and when they ask you to use the word Sole in a sentence, you say something like, "Gee, I could really go for a nice filet of sole", rather than "I hate it when gum sticks in the Sole of my shoe".

        Mostly, these primes only affect the way you behave in either carefully constructed follow-up tasks, usually ones that require you to categorize or manipulate information. A classic example is something like Word Completion, for example:
        "SOL_".

        I'm sure you filled in "Sole" even though you could have put in "Solo" and "Sold", far more common words.

        See! You can be primed too!
    • Was some other interpretation suggested?

      -fred
    • by Selanit (192811) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:08PM (#22790640)

      I've RTF preprint too, and I'm not sure this is a fair criticism. You've misunderstood something - specifically, you write:

      They chose the brands that they chose because Apple was rated as more creative a brand than IBM in pre-test

      Which is incorrect. The researchers chose the brand before the pre-test because they themselves believed it to be associated with creativity. The purpose of the pre-test was to verify that the researchers were correct in believing that the test participants perceive the Apple brand as associated with creativity. They also tested the participants' associations of the IBM logo (which was the other logo they showed) to see whether it too was associated with creativity, and found that it was not.

      The end goal of the study was to measure whether or not exposure to a familiar brand would cause people to exhibit characteristics associated with that brand. Having verified that the Apple brand was associated with creativity in the population they were studying, and that the IBM logo was not, they primed their participants by flashing a logo at them for 80 milliseconds as part of a video, then administered a standard psych test measuring creativity (the Unusual Uses test - it was first put together in 1958 and has been thoroughly validated since then). There were 341 participants (190 male, 151 female). Out of those:

      • Half got the IBM logo, half got Apple.
      • All participants were asked to complete a meaningless task (crossing out E's in a text); half of the participants were asked to do so before the Unusual Uses test, half after. That part was to measure whether the effect of the logo, if any, dissipated rapidly.

      They also asked participants after they had completed the test whether they had noticed any images in the video shown beforehand; except for the 80 millisecond flash of logo, it consisted of abstract testing patterns. Not one single participant reported being aware of any recognizable images in the video, so it really was subliminal.

      Their analysis of the results showed statistically significant differences between those shown IBM and those shown the Apple logo. Specifically, the people who got Apple produced a greater number of responses on the unusual uses test, which is a quantitative difference that nicely demonstrates their desire to be creative if not the actual creativity. The researchers also had judges independently rate the responses on a qualitative scale. The judges didn't know which logo the participants they were evaluation had seen. The researchers then did statistical analysis on the qualitative judgments, which showed that the judges consistently rated the responses of the Apple participants as more creative than those of the IBM participants.

      Then they did it again, two more times in fact, with different brands and traits.

      They had lots of checks and counter-checks built into it, and they used some fairly sophisticated statistical analysis on the results, including some analysis of variance (ANOVA) checks. As is common with psychological studies, the test participants were all undergraduates taking an intro to psych class. So the population was not particularly diverse in terms of age. But on the whole, it looks to me like a pretty well designed study.

      • by Ieshan (409693)
        Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to seem as though I didn't think it was a well written study, or as though I didn't like the design. I understood the experiment.

        I was just trying to quell the legions of people who would suggest that Apple was chosen because of it's transcendent quality of awesomeness. It was chosen because of it's association with the particular trait in question, relative to the other brand choice.

        It wasn't a criticism so much as an explanation. =)
    • by ozbird (127571)
      Given that the Apple logo is pictorial and the IBM logo is text, different parts of the brain would be triggered to recognise the logos. Whether this translates into measurable change in creativity is debatable - "more creative" is the kind of "statistic" I'd expect to see in a shampoo commercial. ("15% more shine! 13% more bounce! 8% more creative!")
      • by Ieshan (409693)
        Could be.

        But then you're probably stuck trying to explain the Disney vs. E! "honesty" bias in terms of text vs. picture, and I'm not sure how that would work.

  • April issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:10PM (#22790200) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, it's in the April issue.
  • Beer (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:11PM (#22790208)
    Participants subliminally viewing a Budweiser logo were able to crush roughly twice as many beer cans against their foreheads compared to those who viewed a Colt 45 logo. On the other hand, those viewing the Colt 45 logo were shown to be 65% more obnoxious when panhandling.
  • by Ardeaem (625311) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:13PM (#22790228)
    As a researcher doing research in the field of subliminal perception, I read their preprint with interest. However, their experiment 1 is flawed. The did the IBM and Apple priming tasks on DIFFERENT DAYS. Which days, they do not say, but it is likely that there are differences in days of the week with respect to how "creative" people are. In my research, we fail to detect any subliminal effects of the type discussed here - the literature is full of methodological problems. I suspect their effect is a methodological artifact, as well.

    They don't mention whether exps 2 and 3 were done on different days, but given that they did it for expt 1, they probably did for 2 and 3 too.

    • As a researcher doing research in the field of subliminal perception, I read their preprint with interest.

      Yes, you are correct, these droids are of no interest to us.

  • In work to be published in the April issue
    It doesn't happen to ship April 1, does it?
  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:23PM (#22790300)
    Had to be burned, then buried, then dug up after a week and the ashes soaked in agua regia and scattered over a disused nuclear test site.

  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:34PM (#22790382)
    As a scientist familiar with subliminal perception and the power of brands, I'd like to say: Bunk. Unless You Make Equal All Prior Observations, "Research" Simply Can't Harbor Effects.

  • "Mozart Effect"? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sohare (1032056) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @07:56PM (#22790548)
    This reminds me a bit of the so-called Mozart effect claimed by Shaw and Rauscher that has been accepted as true by the general public. Their studies were not reproduced and had pretty shoddy methodology. Consult http://skepdic.com/mozart.html [skepdic.com].
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:06PM (#22790622)
    Anecdotal evidence [wired.com] suggests that the visual acuity of Apple fanbois might be adversely affected.
  • by quixote9 (999874) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @10:27PM (#22791606) Homepage
    Why wasn't this published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results [jir.com]? Why?
  • by Unlikely_Hero (900172) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @11:20PM (#22791900)
    From what I recall subliminal messaging was dismissed as bunk a decade ago or earlier.

    Also...Disney...
    honest?...come on....
  • by liftphreaker (972707) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @11:50PM (#22792090)
    Disney made people more honest? Buhwahahahaha. That made my day.

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks

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