Saturday, May 23, 2015

Advertising and Excitation Transfer

Emotions are said to have a cognitive basis.

Whenever we notice an upwelling of sensation within ourselves, we name the feeling based on how we interpret our surroundings at that very moment. It is is our cognitive interpretation of the actions or stimuli we see before us that leads us to give a name to that felt sensation, be it joy, anger, regret, love or any other named emotion.

So, over the years, each of us learns through experience to associate events, places, people and things with feelings.


These upwellings of sensation vary in intensity and duration. Indeed, the felt sensations often continue within us after the immediate event or stimulus that triggered them.

This continuance of certain feelings over time is the basis for what psychologists call Excitation Transfer Theory. An emotional response triggered by one event or stimulus can carry over to an immediately following event or stimulus. In this way, the emotions aroused by an initial event or stimulus become associated with an immediately following event or stimulus.

Here we see this notion applied in advertising.

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So the narrative of the dog's loyalty produced an upwelling of sensations likely interpreted as a form of sympathy. We are surprised by the ending, and in this moment of realization concerning organ donation, our continuing feelings of sympathy are transferred to our intentions toward organ donation.

This is an example of excitation transfer theory. It underscores the importance of emotional response in admirable advertising.

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