As noted earlier, this book is not equipped to answer at least the second part of the question posed in the title of this chapter, namely, whether we need a separate psychology of entertainment media. However, this book does address the first part: What is so special about entertainment media? All of the chapters in this book provide a perspective on the nature of entertainment media and how it often blends with overt persuasion attempts, such as promotions.
And virtually all in some manner speak to the issue of how entertainment media is processed, with the conclusion that media consumers do in fact tend to process entertainment (narrative) and promotional (rhetorical) information differently. This, if nothing else, is what makes entertainment media so special. And it is the premise of at least some of the chapters that this is also what makes it potentially so powerful. It should come as no surprise, then, that marketers would be interested in becoming part of that special processing rather than separate from it. Perhaps that is fine.
This book does not take a position as to whether the blurring of the lines between entertainment and promotion is necessarily good or bad. But in the interest of the free flow of information mentioned in the preface, it is hoped that the chapters in this book can at least contribute to more informed consumers who might then decide whether to provide their consent to be persuaded.
For most of its history, laboratory psychology has probed subliminal perception with gizmos—physical devices such as tachistoscopes—for degrading stimuli to liminal levels. The results have been grudging and often controversial. The real psychological action, it is suggested in this chapter, is found in psychological techniques for degrading the stimulus, among them,
Ebbinghausian subliminality (in which forgetting degrades the stimulus), Pavlovian subliminality (in which the information is induced associatively), and Freudian subliminality (in which latent contents are transformed into mitigated manifest contents by dreamwork techniques, such as censorship, displacement, condensation, symbolism, and plastic-word representation).
Even when gizmos are used to produce subliminal effects, unacknowledged psychological subliminality is likely to play a role in the effects. In this chapter, we first review the status of subliminal processes in experimental psychology, examine some examples from laboratory studies, and then define and illustrate some of the psychological techniques ubiquitously found in the real world (e.g., in jokes, art, ads) for degrading or subliminal zing stimuli.