As citizens of capitalist, free-market societies, we tend to celebrate choice and competition. However, in the 21st century, as we have gained more and more choices, we have also become greater targets for persuasive messages from advertisers who want to make those choices for us.
In Sold on Language, noted language scientists Julie Sedivy and Greg Carlson examine how rampant competition shapes the ways in which commercial and political advertisers speak to us. In an environment saturated with information, advertising messages attempt to compress as much persuasive power into as small a linguistic space as possible. These messages, the authors reveal, might take the form of a brand name whose sound evokes a certain impression, a turn of phrase that gently applies peer pressure, or a subtle accent that zeroes in on a target audience. As more and more techniques of persuasion are aimed squarely at the corner of our mind which automatically takes in information without conscious thought or deliberation, does 'endless choice' actually mean the end of true choice?
Sold on Language offers thought-provoking insights into the choices we make as consumers and citizens – and the choices that are increasingly being made for us.
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About the Authors
Julie Sedivy is Adjunct Professor of Linguistics and Psychology at the University of Calgary, Canada. She has published dozens of research articles on her experimental studies of language comprehension and production in children and adults. She has served as Associate Editor for the journal Linguistics and Philosophy, and as a consulting editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.
Greg Carlson is Professor of Linguistics, Philosophy, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, US. He has authored or co-authored more than a hundred articles on natural language semantics and psycholinguistics. He is the Editor of Language, the journal of the Linguistic Society of America.
"Students and teachers of persuasion would benefit greatly from
reading Sold on Language. Other professionals in communication,
marketing, change management, sales, negotiation, and politics will
find the examples and techniques of influence to be useful as both
best practices to emulate and pitfalls to avoid." (PsycCRITIQUES,
11 January 2012)
"The result is a truly enjoyable, ironic and fresh volume, easy
and pleasant to read for any type of audience." (Metapsychology, 15
"This is a well-written, entertaining, and penetrating book on
advertisers' ubiquitous attempts at persuasion to influence
marketplace behaviour, including the basis for an argument that
advertisers are bent on making choices for the consumer. . . Highly
recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through
professionals/practitioners; consumers, general readers." (Choice,
1 October 2011)
"I highly recommend the landmark and must read book Sold on
Language: How Advertisers Talk to You and What This Says About You
by Julie Sedivy and Greg Carlson, to anyone seeking an open,
honest, as well an engaging study into the nature of advertising
messages, brands, and the words used to market products. This eye
opening book will change the way readers approach advertising
messages and the illusion that the market offers real choice."
(Blog Business World, 28 April 2011)
"For a university student with nascent interests in language and
thought, reading this book might well provide a stimulus to take
some philosophy or psychology or language sciences, which would be
no bad thing." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 21 April
About the Authors.
Preface. 1 The Power of Choice.
2 The Unconscious Consumer.
3 The Attentional Arms Race.
4 We Know What You’re Thinking.
5 Why Ads Don’t Say What They Mean (Or Mean What They Say).
6 Acting Out.
7 Divide and Conquer.
8 The Politics of Choice.