They are the stern, staring eyes of those grim-faced Republican candidates in the recent CNN promotion for their 16 December 2015 debate. And, they are an example of “resonance advertising” based on the latest social psychological research.
Resonance Advertising is the most non-conscious evocative form of advertising. Developed by the late Tony Schwartz, the methodology was used by Lyndon Johnson’s campaign to literally blow Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid out of the water with a commercial called “Picking Daisies” which ended with the image of a thermonuclear explosion. Emotionally, though not literally, the :30 second television commercial called up subconscious voter fear that a vote for Goldwater would lead to nuclear war with the Russians.
The CNN promo has only a drum beat audio, subconsciously saying military or regimentation, and the images are face after face of the leading Republican candidates staring menacingly at the camera.
Powerful, eh? They are watching you.
WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?
Social psychological research has shown that photos of stern, staring eyes are a psychological “prime” – they prime the situation with meanings that come from within us. Hence “resonance” advertising. Powerful images which call forth deep-seated emotional responses.
When added to the test environment of several studies; images of stern, staring eyes cause significantly measurable reactions among test participants. In one case, simply switching the photos on the wall above a “honor box” in a student canteen, led students to “feel guilty” and give money for coffee refreshments even though there was no printed or verbal directive to do so. Such images of these eyes are “authoritarian”.
The research went on to prove that people of an older generation (like “Baby Boomers”) are more susceptible to responding to these “authoritarian” eyes. (Oh great!)