Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Sold on Language: How Advertisers Talk to You and What This Says About You Paperback – February 21, 2011
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"Students and teachers of persuasion would benefit greatly from reading Sold on Language. Other professionals in communication, marketing, change management, sales, negotiation, and politics will find the examples and techniques of influence to be useful as both best practices to emulate and pitfalls to avoid." (PsycCRITIQUES, 11 January 2012)
"The result is a truly enjoyable, ironic and fresh volume, easy and pleasant to read for any type of audience." (Metapsychology, 15 November 2011)
"This is a well-written, entertaining, and penetrating book on advertisers' ubiquitous attempts at persuasion to influence marketplace behaviour, including the basis for an argument that advertisers are bent on making choices for the consumer. . . Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; consumers, general readers." (Choice, 1 October 2011)
"I highly recommend the landmark and must read book Sold on Language: How Advertisers Talk to You and What This Says About You by Julie Sedivy and Greg Carlson, to anyone seeking an open, honest, as well an engaging study into the nature of advertising messages, brands, and the words used to market products. This eye opening book will change the way readers approach advertising messages and the illusion that the market offers real choice." (Blog Business World, 28 April 2011)
"For a university student with nascent interests in language and thought, reading this book might well provide a stimulus to take some philosophy or psychology or language sciences, which would be no bad thing." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 21 April 2011)
"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’
"Via engaging prose and scientific evidence, Sedivy and Carlson have made a noteworthy contribution by providing fresh and deep insights 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 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
Language comes to us brilliantly easily. How else could children be learning new words at the incredible rate of 10 a day? But that ease of learning carries with it the risk that we will be oblivious to the power of words – as written or spoken by others – to control our behavior. To all who might want to protect themselves against that risk, I say: read this book.
—Jay Ingram, author of Talk, Talk, Talk, Canada
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
So why this interest in Bernays? Because of the effects and effectiveness of the vast advertising and media industries that have grown up in this last century of 'extreme individualism'. This book is an attempt to unpack the mainly linguistic 'tricks of the trade' of these industries and, in doing so, to inoculate us against them.
The books main themes centre around the ways in which we are becoming aware of how our minds work and how they may be manipulated. To start with, the authors consider 'The Unconscious Consumer':
'According to Sigmund Freud...we live in constant danger of having our unconscious memories and longings grab us by the throat and lead us down a path of irrational choices...Freud probed these hidden motivators by having people lie on a couch and relate their dreams and memories. Today, scientists of the mind probe them with clever experimental tasks in labs and use expensive devices to measure the gaze patterns of eyes, and the electrical activity and blood flow in the brain. All this technological proliferation just emphasises how elusive our own minds are to us.' (P15)
The authors are linguists and so the evidence they cite is largely linguistically based - but since we have so much of our being in language, this seems eminently justified. And the experiments are fascinating.
They go on to consider the active role of the unconscious in 'The Attentional Arms Race'. It seems that overt attention is not a prerequisite for successful manipulation - in fact, in many ways, it's what you perceive peripherally that has more effect, as this is absorbed into the unconscious for further processing, while our conscious minds are taken up with the task in hand. Yet more experimental evidence backs up this proposition.
The next chapter - 'We Know What You're Thinking' sounds ominously like an Adam Curtis documentary. The authors concentrate on linguistic formulations that can radically alter perceptions of statements. The use of 'presuppositions', of leading questions, manipulation of memories and 'Mindless Agreement and Unconscious Individualism' (P120) make it appear that we have freedom and independence of action whereas in reality, even our much-vaunted individualism may be subverted.
Slowly the book unpacks many of the tricks, traps and tips of the persuasive industries. It is all told in an informal and readable style, but it still packs a punch. However, much of it seems kind of 'anecdotal'. Apart from the initial references to Freud, there is no outline of a consistent theory here. It's as if this science is still in the 'gathering evidence' stage. It's still very interesting, but slightly frustrating at the same time.
Finally, the authors turn their attention to the growing role of advertising-style practices in politics. This, for me, was by far the most interesting section of the book. Even if, after reading up to here, you think you're aware of the techniques used by advertisers, you can't help but feel that it is far too easy for those 'in the know' to manipulate and control us. Thus, it is no surprise to find the authors discussing Plato's reservations on democracy. They talk of 'Democracy in the Age of the Mackerel Mind' (P250) where the 'mackerel mind' refers, if you like, to a 'herd' or 'collective' mind. They examine the increasingly fragmented tribalism of society, the way that beliefs are perpetuated even in the face of completely contradictory and factual evidence (they don't mention it, but I can't help thinking of Obama's birth certificate). But, at the same time, they start to develop Freud's ideas of the unconscious. What they suggest is that, far from being at the mercy of our unconscious, the interplay between conscious and unconscious mind is a far more active, dynamic and two-way affair. As such - and this is really the crucial point - a conscious recognition of the ways in which the unconscious may be manipulated can go a long way in inoculating us against just this manipulation, making us all, perhaps, Philosopher Kings.
All in all, an illuminating, readable and rewarding book.
Sold on Language focuses on choice in a consumer’s mind, whether it is real, and to what extent. It touches on subjects within formal linguistics (such as basic phonetics, aspirated consonants, priming, presuppositions, etc.) in a way that makes them quite accessible to the average reader. The first 7 chapters focus on such subjects as subconscious messages, how advertisers compete for your attention and how this plays into how we divide our attention as humans, and how advertisers use indirect and emotional language to get their intentions across. The final chapter touches on politics, and how everything from the “comfiness” of a politician’s name to the way they give speeches influences our opinions and how we vote.
It’s hard to convey the breadth of this book in a single review. Instead, I will simply identify what appealed to me most. The authors seamlessly transition from and within topics in linguistics, as applicable to the chapter as a whole. The reader is given information that encapsulates their knowledge of the selected broad topics in numerous ways. Each section includes a title that helps guide the reader into what the following text is about and how it will inform the overall topic of the chapter.
While each chapter flows in and out of the main topic, I found each section introduced me to new knowledge that was very often interesting, such as the extent of how presuppositions frame our idea of what previous knowledge we possess. This new information was at times almost shocking. I was, for instance, somewhat bamboozled at the idea of subliminal messaging, and how something that had previously felt so much like science fiction could suddenly be backed by scientific study.
Sold on Language makes the reader take a good look at themselves in the process, and I found myself sometimes unhappy at the discoveries I made about my own brain’s interactions with advertising. In this way, the book brought unpleasant but important truths into my life, and created in me a more knowledgeable consumer.
As I read Sold on Language, I found it to be at times unexpectedly humorous. From footnotes that indicate ironic ends to advertising campaigns (such as cars that advertise acceleration only to have to make recalls when the gas pedal is dysfunctional) to quotes from Clinton’s scandal or Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report, the author finds ways to inject humor into a fairly dense body of text. These humorous details all suggest an undeniable fact about advertisements: that they have become an inseparable part of American culture.
Overall, Sold on Language is a somewhat dense read and can certainly not be read through in one or two sittings. However it is a highly interesting and informative, captivating look at our brains, language, advertising and where all of those meet. It introduced me to invaluable facts about how advertisers take advantage of my fellow consumerist public and me. Having read this book, I now feel much more aware of the tricks of the advertising world and how to operate within it as a knowledgeable consumer. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wishing to gain insight into themselves as consumers and how language and advertising interact.