"The fact that TV is a source not actively or critically attended to was made dramatically evident in the late 1960s by an experiment that rocked the world of political and product advertising and forever changed the ways in which the television medium would be used. The results of the experiment still reverberate through the industry long after its somewhat primitive methods have been perfected.
"In November 1969, a researcher named Herbert Krugman, who later became manager of public-opinion research at General Electric headquarters in Connecticut, decided to try to discover what goes on physiologically in the brain of a person watching TV. He elicited the co-operation of a twenty-two-year-old secretary and taped a single electrode to the back of her head. The wire from this electrode connected to a Grass Model 7 Polygraph, which in turn interfaced with a Honeywell 7600 computer and a CAT 400B computer.
"Flicking on the TV, Krugman began monitoring the brain-waves of the subject What he found through repeated trials was that within about thirty seconds, the brain-waves switched from predominantly beta waves, indicating alert and conscious attention, to predominantly alpha waves, indicating an unfocused, receptive lack of attention: the state of aimless fantasy and daydreaming below the threshold of consciousness. When Krugman's subject turned to reading through a magazine, beta waves reappeared, indicating that conscious and alert attentiveness had replaced the daydreaming state.
"What surprised Krugman, who had set out to test some McLuhanesque hypotheses about the nature of TV-viewing, was how rapidly the alpha-state emerged. Further research revealed that the brain's left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically, tunes out while the person is watching TV. This tuning-out allows the right hemisphere of the brain, which processes information emotionally and noncritically, to function unimpeded. 'It appears,' wrote Krugman in a report of his findings, 'that the mode of response to television is more or less constant and very different from the response to print. That is, the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference.... [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.'
"Soon, dozens of agencies were engaged in their own research into the television-brain phenomenon and its implications. The findings led to a complete overhaul in the theories, techniques, and practices that had structured the advertising industry and, to an extent, the entire television industry. The key phrase in Krugman's findings was that TV transmits 'information not thought about at the time of exposure.'" [p.p. 69-70]
"As Herbert Krugman noted in the research that transformed the industry, we do not consciously or rationally attend to the material resonating with our unconscious depths at the time of transmission. Later, however, when we encounter a store display, or a real-life situation like one in an ad, or a name on a ballot that conjures up our television experience of the candidate, a wealth of associations is triggered. Schwartz explains: 'The function of a display in the store is to recall the consumer's experience of the product in the commercial.... You don't ask for a product: The product asks for you! That is, a person's recall of a commercial is evoked by the product itself, visible on a shelf or island display, interacting with the stored data in his brain.' Just as in Julian Jaynes's ancient cultures, where the internally heard speech of the gods was prompted by props like the corpse of a chieftain or a statue, so, too, our internalized media echoes are triggered by products, props, or situations in the environment.
"As real-life experience is increasingly replaced by the mediated 'experience' of television-viewing, it becomes easy for politicians and market-researchers of all sorts to rely on a base of mediated mass experience that can be evoked by appropriate triggers. The TV 'world' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the mass mind takes shape, its participants acting according to media-derived impulses and believing them to be their own personal volition arising out of their own desires and needs. In such a situation, whoever controls the screen controls the future, the past, and the present."
[p. 82, Joyce Nelson, THE PERFICT MACHINE; New Society Pub., 1992, 800-253-3605; ISBN 0-86571-235-2 ]