Your brain on drug ads

Via Hit and Run:
Carson B. Wagner, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has studied the effects of anti-drug ads on viewers using a technique known as response latency measurement of strength of association:

“Rather than directly asking research participants to express their attitudes about drugs, response latency SOA measures allow researchers to gauge people’s attitudes without their direct knowledge, thereby yielding a more accurate measure of the research participant’s attitudes that better predicts behavioral decision-making under various conditions.” …

The results showed that people who self-reported their attitudes after viewing the anti-drug ads expressed strong anti-drug sentiments, as opposed to the weaker anti-drug sentiments measured in the response latency tests after viewing the same anti-drug ads. These findings suggested that, compared to response latency measures, self-report measures exaggerated the effectiveness of anti-drug ads… “Based on these findings, the self-report surveys may have produced inflated claims of the ads’ effects,” he concludes.

Not good news for the Drug Czar, who likes to fund his own studies to insure positive results and continued funding, so I doubt that the administration will be paying much attention to this study.
The study also notes that anti-drug ads may actually increase curiosity about drugs. This makes a lot of sense. I remember when I was a cigarette smoker and the Cancer Society would run nasty anti-smoking TV ads. Intellectually, I would watch the ad and say “I’ve got to quit,” but at the same time I would reach for a cigarette, triggered by the ad.

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