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Do you scoff at Apple products?

in Media Psychology by


How many people have you met who are proud they do not own an Apple iPhone or iPad?You know the type. They disregard the slick designs and marketing and focus on the technical and functional characteristics of products.

But if you are one of the many millions of iPhone owners you might be more willing to admit you simply like the look and feel of your device. If you didn’t care about appearances you would be more than happy to scroll through a basic checklist of apps rather than navigating through colourful buttons.These preferences extend to your home too.

Open your pantry and you will find an assortment of brands that probably taste exactly the same as a generic product. Your television might have looked just as good if you purchased a lesser brand, so long as you weren’t aware it wasn’t really a Sony.

You may have tirelessly debated over a shade of paint and were willing to spend more because that premium off-white really looks better than the cheaper off-white.

Many people, however, do not think they are easily manipulated by all that. They love the idea that they are sensible and rational and can, therefore, find a bargain and spend their dollars where it counts.

For example, they believe they are not influenced by advertising, branding and other messages designed to persuade. It’s referred to as the ‘third-person’ effect. 

And it is true to a point.

In one study, when participants were exposed to the features of a very expensive product they were subsequently less likely to purchase that item than a more functional one. Presumably, the mere exposure to extravagance deterred individuals from making the superficial choice.

However, when the participants were distracted and not given enough time to think things through, they were more likely to purchase the expensive product.

The reason this happens is that when not given much time to think, we can base our decisions on emotion. The luxury products, for example, make us feel a bit more comfortable and we use this as a quick method to gauge their quality.

So, the third-person effect makes some sense when we have time to really think things through. Unfortunately, many of life’s decisions are made on the run and we are often distracted by choices as well as different views and opinions.

And advertising is relentless. It invades every aspect of our lives: on our pantry shelf, on television, radio, clothing, store windows, labels and billboards. Even written in the sky.

You may think you can logically ignore all this but eventually advertising, luxury brands and other superficialities will weed you out and make you invest in something you don’t really need. After all, you were suckered into reading this fairly superficial blog. And all the way to the end too. That’ll be ten dollars, thanks.

What your signature tells you about your self-esteem

in Work Psychology by


I had a colleague called Wayne Kerr. Think about it. How did Wayne feel about his name? Maybe you know someone called ‘Robyn Banks’ or maybe your brother-in-law–that is, my brother in law–suggested you call your child ‘Hunter’. Not a bad name except when your surname is ‘Duck’.

Studies have shown that people who like their name a lot also tend to have higher self-esteem. In contrast, those who indicate they dislike their name generally have lower self-esteem.

Similar studies have also shown that our signature provides insight into our self-esteem. People who sign their names with big signatures report higher self-esteem than people who have smaller signatures.

Very interesting but what does it all mean?

Our name is one of the most personal and intimate aspects of who we are. It symbolises our identity. Of course, it is also possible that awkward or embarrassing names may compromise our self-confidence.

When our identity is associated with a humorous or silly name, what does this do to our self-esteem? For some it may be a badge of honour because it allows them to stand out. After all, there are many celebrities with quirky names, some bestowed by their parents and others adopted to catch more attention on the billboards.

Take Joaquin Phoenix who used to be called Leaf Phoenix and has siblings called River Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Summer Phoenix and Jodean Bottom. Then again Marion Morrison may not have galloped through so many Westerns if he hadn’t taken the sound advice from a director to change his name to John Wayne.

For some other people (e.g. ‘Mr Stiff’ from my school) change may be required to avoid embarrassment or enhance their credibility.

Think about your ever growing list of leaders and influencers. Did their names play a role? Were your leaders John Smiths or Wayne Kerrs?


Star Wars 7 trailer and its character archetypes

in Film & TV Psychology by


Although it be a bit premature, it’s often easy to work out the character archetypes from a trailer. Archetypes are universal characters we see over and over again in stories (see my analysis of archetypes in Game of Thrones here). What universal characters can we expect from the new Star Wars based on the trailer that was launched on Friday? Here are some predictions.

The Regular Guy: Guy in stormtrooper armour


The Stormtroopers are the working class or ‘regular guys’ of the Star Wars universe so it wouldn’t be surprising to see one thrown into a more complicated world like with this guy. The one thing the regular guy hates is to stand out and be different. What happens when a Stormtrooper loses contact with his buddies? Looks pretty uncomfortable, right?

The Hero: Female Luke Skywalker


Like Luke, this character lives on a desert planet (Tatoonie again?), has her own speeder and generally looks like the most heroic. If she follows the hero archetype like Luke, she’ll end up seeking out a wise mentor (Luke? Han Solo? Princess Leia?) to guide her on her way. Or maybe she’ll be more of the rogue ‘Han Solo’ type?

My bet is that after six Star Wars films with a male ‘hero’ in the lead, this new trilogy will have a female hero.

The Rebel: X-Wing pilot


This guy could be anyone but I’m assuming from the bruised chin, he’s got himself into a fist fight, just like the ‘rebel’ archetype. The rebel archetype breaks the rules, avoids conforming and takes risks. He’s also wearing the traditional ‘rebel’ pilot outfit from the original Star Wars trilogy. I could be wrong. He could also be the ‘regular guy’. Just a pilot doing his job.

The Jester: Weird ball droid


Star Wars often has droids in a ‘Jester’ type role, providing light comic relief. The Jester archetype is usually providing a light commentary on the dark proceedings of a drama. I’m not so sure if this fellow is providing commentary (we’re having a ball of a time?) but no doubt appears to be offering some light relief.

The villain: Dark hooded character with inconvenient lightsaber


Although not a traditional archetype, the dark hooded villain with red lightsaber is a Star Wars staple. No doubt this is the primary secondary villain of the series. Wouldn’t it be a twist if this turned out to be Luke Skywalker? Speaking of which, this new series is crying out for Luke to be the ‘Magician’ archetype, replacing Obi-Wan and Yoda as the primary wise mentor.


Although, there are other interesting rumours (possible spoilers), which sound too interesting to be fake but, then again, could be a clever bit of misdirection.

I do have the heart to tell you this

in Work Psychology by


Subtle changes to behaviour can affect decision-making. In this study, people were subtly manipulated into touching their head or their chest (heart). The head-touchers made more logical decisions. The heart touchers were more motivated by emotion.

The researchers suggest that we unconsciously learn to associate the heart with emotion and the head with logic through popular culture.

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