A Science Odyssey Title Human Behavior Activity Title

Conditioning Consumers

Overview: Analyze advertisements' methods of affecting behavior
Learning Goal: Understand the behaviorist concepts of association and conditioning
Video Link: Eugenics vs. Behaviorism, Theories in Practice

Ask students what or who they associate with a particular product -- name a brand of athletic shoes, for example, or a certain soft drink or car. If students name a personality, icon, or abstraction to describe the product rather product features, point out that they are seeing the theory of behaviorism in action. Remind them to keep that in mind as they watch the video segments.

Show the video segments, especially the parts on behaviorism. Discuss how John Watson transferred his knowledge of psychology to the business of advertising. What was his concept of "association"? Encourage students to think critically about advertising. Ask them to describe and analyze a current television or magazine advertisement for a report or presentation.

Have students describe the advertisement. What is the product? What happens in the ad? Who is shown using the product and how is it used? Where did students see the ad? Then ask students to analyze whose behavior the ad is attempting to influence, and how. Identify important people or objects and explain their role. What factual information does the ad provide? What is left out? What outcomes does it suggest for those who use (or fail to use) the product? According to the ad, what is most important about the product? Ask volunteers to present their reports to the class. What conclusions can students draw about how advertising attempts to condition consumer behavior?

Human Behavior Program Contents

Activities subtitle

Testing, Testing
Brave Old World
In-Depth Investigation: Memory Lane

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