The Engineering of Consent
"The Engineering of Consent" is an essay by Edward Bernays first published in 1947. He defines "engineering consent" as the art of manipulating people. It maintained that entire populations, which were undisciplined or lacking in intellectual or definite moral principles, were vulnerable to unconscious influence and thus susceptible to want things that they do not need. This was achieved by linking those products and ideas to their unconscious desires. Ernest Dichter, who is widely considered to be the "father of motivational research," referred to this as "the secret-self of the American consumer."
In other words, consumer psychologists have already made the choice for people before they buy a certain product. This is achieved by manipulating desires on an unconscious level.
The central idea behind the engineering of consent is that the public or people should not be aware of the manipulation taking place.
||This section possibly contains original research. (September 2011)|
Edward Bernays was responsible in the late 1920s for converting attitudes towards women's smoking from a social taboo to a socially acceptable act.
The idea of "Engineering of Consent" was motivated by Freud's idea that humans are irrational beings and are motivated primarily by inner desires hidden in their unconscious. If one understood what those unconscious desires were, then one could use this to one's advantage to sell products and increase sales.
The Engineering of Consent also applies to the pioneered application of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts and techniques to business—in particular to the study of consumer behavior in the marketplace. Ideas established strongly influenced the practices of the advertising industry in the twentieth century.
The techniques applied developing the "consumer lifestyle" were also later applied to developing theories in cultural commodification; which has proven successful in the later 20th century (with diffusion of cultures throughout North America) to sell ethnic foods and style in popular mainstream culture by removing them from geography and ethnic histories and sanitizing them for a general public.
Ernest Dichter applied what he dubbed "the strategy of desire" for building a "stable society," by creating for the public a common identity through the products they consumed; again, much like with cultural commodification, where culture has no "identity," "meaning," or "history" inherited from previous generations, but rather, is created by the attitudes which are introduced by consumer behaviors and social patterns of the period. According to Dichter, "To understand a stable citizen, you have to know that modern man quite often tries to work off his frustrations by spending on self-sought gratification. Modern man is internally ready to fulfill his self-image, by purchasing products which compliment it."