Column: Readers read, whether or not they want to

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).

Reading is both a blessing and a curse – once you learn to read, you can’t not read. Yeah, I know, that’s a double negative, but it’s a deliberate one!

Cereal boxes, roadside billboards, graffiti, wherever the printed words are, we read them. They might not totally register, but somehow the message becomes embedded.

For instance, 15 years or so ago, there was a great Chinese restaurant in Beaver Dam called China Palace. They had great place mats revealing the Chinese zodiac, and every time we went there, I’d read the place mat again.

It wasn’t because I was particularly interested in the Chinese zodiac, but because the words were there. And besides, why wouldn’t I want to reinforce the idea that my sign, the rabbit, represents? “Luckiest of all signs, you are also talented and articulate. Affectionate, yet shy, you seek peace throughout your life.”

I didn’t “marry a sheep or a boar,” though, like it says; I married a “tiger”! It’s worked out wonderfully well, too!

But getting back to my original idea of not being able to avoid reading once you’ve learned how to read. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a YouTube of an old “Saturday Night Live” skit about subliminal advertising, and I was reminded of a combination demonstration speech and science fair project conducted by one of my students about 50 years ago at the junior high. Clever girl, that Vicki; she got credit for an assignment in my class and for her science fair project!

Vicki will excuse me, I think, if I don’t have all the information here exactly as it occurred, but it was a few years ago! Anyway, as I recall it, in her project, Vicki had produced an 8-millimeter home movie that was ostensibly a sort of travelogue of Beaver Dam, showing the prominent sights (and sites) of the city.

To collect data for her science fair project, Vicki had made arrangements with several teachers so that she could show the film to many of her peers. It was a silent film, of course, but Vicki had written a narration that she read along with it – or perhaps it was tape-recorded.

As part of her presentation, she had prepared a quiz to be taken by her classmates after they had viewed her film. The quiz asked very direct questions about the subject matter of the film and its narration, but it also included a query about the students’ favorite breakfast cereal!

Why? Because – and here’s the science fair part of it – Vicki had clipped into her film a number of frames that said “Rice Krispies” (or whatever cereal it was – I’m not too clear on that part of my memory).

A single frame of an 8mm film is probably on-screen for only one one-hundredth of a second or so, so the human eye would not “notice” it, although it would register on the optic nerve and eventually be processed by the brain. Thus the subliminal suggestion of “Rice Krispies” was planted.

Many of Vicki’s classmates mentioned “Rice Krispies.” So, was it the result of her subliminal suggestion? Or did they just like the “snap, crackle and pop”? Movie theaters did the same thing with popcorn during the “coming attractions” for awhile during the ’60s until it was outlawed.

It’s the same reason that manufacturers pay big money to have their products shown or used in movies. If Tom Cruise drinks a Budweiser in a film, Budweiser will sell more beer after the movie. The Nike and “swoosh” logo are ubiquitous; so is Reebok’s. We may not consciously pay attention to them, but the suggestion is there when we go to buy shoes or sporting clothes.

So, as I said earlier, reading is both a blessing and a curse. If you’ve gotten this far into this column and you’re still reading, I thank you for being so blessed, or cursed!