Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Advertising in Crime Fiction

Rick brought up an excellent topic about getting paid for produce placement in our fiction, and it brings to mind Blink, the book I’m reading right now. Or rather, listening to, as I found an audio copy. Blink (Back Bay Books, Little, Brown, 2005) is a book written by British-born Canadian journalist and pop sociologist Malcolm Gladwell. He also wrote two other well-known books, The Tipping Point (2000) and Outliers (Little, Brown and Company, 2008).

Blink is about how people make unconscious decisions, and Gladwell calls them the decisions we make behind “closed doors.” These are the mental processes that work rapidly and automatically from little information, sometimes known as the adaptive unconscious. He also calls this process “thin slicing.”

You probably know where I’m going with this, considering the hot potato Rick introduced. ($10,000 for mentioning a product? I wish. Or do I?) Gladwell has a section that discusses how when a group of African American students were required to fill in their race before taking a standardized exam (the GRE, I believe), they did considerably worse on the exam than a comparable group that wasn’t asked to fill in their race. When asked how they felt about the exam, the first group replied that they felt unprepared, and many said they didn’t feel smart enough. If led to the fact that they may have been influenced by the race suggestion, a number of them admitted that they knew academic expectations were sometimes lower for African Americans.

Holy Moly, I thought. That’s terrible for everyone. And it’s huge. How about women being “bad” in math and science? Or what if you had a fight with your husband/girlfriend/etc. as you walked out the door to an important meeting or interview. Slam, take that you stupid shit! Okay, I hyperbolize, but it happens.

So back to product placement. Though I have used specific products that I thought fit a certain character (not always positively), I’m going to think twice about it. To do it because I’m paid? Like many of you said, it’s a very slippery slope. And what if I begin to believe it myself?

Just some thoughts, before I go listen to Blink some more. I want to know why some doctors get sued, while others, who make more mistakes, don’t. Or how people can’t explain how they’re attracted to members of the opposite sex. Or how they’re unconsciously influenced by others’ actions.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Very intriguing post. We make these unconscious decisions all the time, usually little ones, but sometimes, surprisingly large ones. I often wondered how that works. Think a visit to the bookstore is warranted.