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Mike Andersen

The ting is, your brain do not block out the ads. You think it does since you don't seem to notice them, but you are (as all the rest of us) affected by them.

Derren Brown turned the table on some of the advertising people and used their own techniques on them. Take a look at this video to see how that went: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyQjr1YL0zg

And about the in-store speaker blurbs that you hear at the shopping malls... Yes, we rarely notices what they say, but we _are_ affected by it. Again, Derren Brown has effectively demonstrated this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F9zTtSMrIg Unfortunately this video is missing the sound (which plays an important part).


Eye tracking studies are showing that F shaped browsing predominates and that increasingly people ignore (i.e. actually don't even look at the right hand column where the ads are assumed to be). Mike makes valid points but I wonder if they apply if our eyes don't ever alight on those ads?

Geoff Wilson

Jakob Nielsen's recent research backs your findings: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/banner-blindness.html

We basically don't see the banner ads. The only way to have people click on ads is to disguise them as normal text. Strange why Google does so well.


Yep, I'm still in the camp where I actually automagically avoid seeing the ads, not even assimilating them unconsciously by some magic (or rapid eye movement).

When somebody started bitching about ads in Facebook I had to go there and see for myself, had been using it for quite awhile without ever noticing that there were any ads there at all!

Mike Andersen

John and Geoff, Let us do an experiment: Focus all your attention on one single character in this sentence. Make sure your eyes are fixed on that char. While you keep you eyes on that char, what other visual information are you able to absorb? That is, does your eyes send any information to your brain other than the char you are focusing on? Even when you did not look away from that char?

When I try this I notices that I pick up a lot of visual information. Heck, a colleague of mine just walked by when I did this, and I just captured a glimpse of him in the corner of my eye -- but that was enough to recognize who he was.

Can we agree that we actually see the banner ads even if our conscious mind don't notice it?

If we do, take a look at this article from The New York Times (sorry about the ugly URL):


Sigurd: If you are not affected by ads you don't consciously focus on, then you are rare. Not unique, but rare. Most of us are affected by the things we subconsciously pick up. I know for sure that I am.



got the point :) Agree, there's really no way I would know that I'm absolutely not influenced in any way.

But I wonder where the "line" is, do I see the ads at all? Do I not see it but still unconsciously seep up some message? If I'm watching the telly and the remote is too far away I sometimes endure some ads, sometimes actually looking but mostly thinking about something else. In that case I'm with you, accnot remember twiddlydit but might get some inexplicable urge for Orangina.

But a web site where I focus and really do not notice even the oddly placed ads? Not convinced that anything seeps in then, think I have not crossed the line of actually focusing - which is necessary to read text (at least for me :)), your friend passing requires no focus; that's the animal in us, reacting to movements and deciphering what's happening. Guess that's why some ads jumps all over the place but my hunter instinct is not triggered by those methinks :)

Paul P Magee

I read something somewhere about part of the brain, possibly the Reticular activating system being responsible for helping to block out from our consciousness at least, those things including ads that aren't useful to us right now.

But it's also responsible for letting us "see" those things when we wish to be aware of them.

When you buy a new car, ever noticed how all of a sudden you notice everyone else who has the same car? I think that's the same principle working in reverse.

But a quick search didn't return much evidence of that theory, so maybe it's false memory.

It would certainly be cool if we could measure how much info does "get through" whatever the brain puts up to protect us. There must be something, because surely we have to at least momentarily process it, before we can discard it as irrelevant? In that sense alone it must take some form of mental toll.

I wonder how much strain all these ads take to process compared to our brains earlier needs (being aware of tigers in the grass?)

Mike Andersen

Sigurd, I don't know if you watched the first of the video links in my original followup? Notice all the small images that are "in the corner" of their eyes... images that plants the idea in their heads. Especially, pay close attention to the explanation on how they did this. Then ask: Did the two advertising people focus or pay any attention to the items and images the team had placed out for them? Believe me when I say this: It seeps in.

I could make a list of several other videos on youtube that shows this principle in action and where it is explained further.

The reason I block ads are that I don't like the idea of being a victim of the advertising schemes (I am anyway; through other channels like TV, magazines, billboards and so on).


is it not a bit like the classic conundrum facing all science that "reality is changed by the experiment" in most of the analysis of this "phenomena"?

My own highly scientific experiments :-D - shows me that the moment I visit a site to see if I "see" any ads or not, trying to act "natural", I have to fight not zooming in on them, and even if I try my damnedest I soak them up like a sponge ;-D

But of course, have to reckon the real scientists knows this...

But in the end, as you say, we do not want the crap - and lo and behold, in any other human matter where we do not want we block out and do our best to avoid!

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