“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”—Carl Sagan
I haven’t eaten fast food chicken since 2001, or a fast food burger since 1995. Giving these things up was part of an ongoing process of cleaning up my diet in terms of both health and ethics, and I haven’t missed either of them. Yet regularly, when I catch a whiff of KFC or McDonalds, I’ll experience a momentary pang of desire, even though I’m sure I’d get sick if I actually consumed any of that crap at this point. The reason for this is simple: many aromas released by fast food restaurants are scientifically developed in laboratories for the purpose of triggering physiological responses.
My craving is not a sign of missing fried chicken (I don’t) or reflective of an inherent bodily need for beef (there’s no such thing) or even an instinctual response to the smell of cooking meat (that claim lacks scientific consensus). Rather, it ironically points out that my senses function normally (as in, within the range of the average or conventional) because they are responding as they are supposed to. Obviously, as with everything else, different people will react more or less strongly to such stimuli, with some percentage instead experiencing the opposite of the intended reaction (distaste). Despite such exceptions, the rule stands. These companies wouldn’t be using these methods if they weren’t more effective than not. A tremendous amount of money and time goes into developing these things, and it’s not wasted.
Propaganda is analogous.