With literally thousands of ads hitting us every day, it’s impossible to avoid being influenced. Society has long been of two minds about advertising. On the one hand, it promotes marketplace efficiency by educating consumers about new products. On the other hand, people justifiably worry that its power to impart information may outmanoeuvre our rational controls. For example, market researcher James Vicary’s 1957 experiment with subliminal messages—in which he claimed to have sent cinema snack-bar sales soaring after flashing plugs for popcorn and soda at unsuspecting patrons for one three-thousandth of a second—prompted a panic that swiftly reached Capitol Hill. Vicary was ordered to repeat his experiment before an audience of lawmakers. Subliminal advertising bans were summarily introduced in several U.S. states, with one congressman calling the technique “made to order for the establishment and maintenance of a totalitarian government”. Les mer her