London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Twickenham 1956

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Twickenham]

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Don't Stop me, Buy One
How do you deal with these persistent salesmen who come to your front door
trying to sell you something? It may be a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine
or an encyclopaedia. The salesman begins to tell you all the advantages of
having this particular thing; if you stand and listen you are lost; you begin to feel
your stomach flutter inside, your mind begins to wander a little, you think of a
hundred things, the preparation of the dinner, what your husband will say, the
reactions of the children, what your neighbour next door will think, the longing
you have always had for this particular thing, and that you know quite well you
can't afford it. All these things go racing through your mind. You know you
should send the man away packing, yet you don't like to hurt his feelings and you
are still tortured by the partial desire to have the article. Then your mind gets
into a whirl of emotion; you wish the fellow would go away; you have lost control
of the situation altogether. What you should have done at the very beginning was
not to hesitate one moment; say politely but firmly "I am not interested in this
today, thank you, goodbye".
The Evangelists
Still worse are these people who come round trying to persuade you to some
other form of religion; they try to convert you to their beliefs. As the whole
subject is one of intense emotionalism it is very easy to get involved in an upsetting
experience which can leave you quite limp. All these people who call on
you are quick to see when you are weakening, and they will be ready to follow it
up in a short interval, if they see the possibility of persuading you.
Motivational Research
I read in a newspaper1 that in America there are eighty-two motivational
research firms. The biggest advertisers run campaigns based on motivation
analysis. Millions of dollars are spent on schemes deliberately and delicately
designed to play on the customers' hidden weaknesses, his anxiety, his loneliness,
cupidity, and fears. These creepy-peepy studies poke their noses into your subconscious
to find out why you behave as you do and why your decisions are so
illogical. A concealed cine-camera registers how many eye-blinks a woman has
when she selects some goods to buy. She ought to blink faster if she's under
tension; but they find she blinks slower because she falls into a light trance, the
first stage of hypnosis, mesmorized by the wonderful range of good things; therefore
she buys one quarter as much again as she would have done. A married man about
to buy a new car eventually decides to have a saloon; but what gets him into the
showroom is the sports two-seater in the window; the symbol of excitement,
romance, and adventure.
The advertisers trade on your emotions, your unfulfilled longings, your
unrevenged hurts, your pride, your urge to be in good standing with your group,
your desire to show off to your neighbour. Hence they point out the shame of
Kenneth Allsop, Daily Mail, 26th October, 1957