You Are Influenced by Media: A Bathroom Waste Basket Conditioning Reminder

Don’t doubt it.

Human hubris often spins a tale about how we’re not really influenced by advertising and media campaigns. . . though we may believe all the other suckers are.

As a reminder of how it works, here’s a quickie example of media influence at work.  Do you remember the days when trash cans in restaurant bathrooms were not positioned near the door? The strategic positioning is a relatively new phenomenon.  You know about it, because when the trash can isn’t near the door, where you can drop your paper towel after opening the icky door handle with it, you search around with irritation. You’ve probably also noticed when there’s no can near the door and people simply toss their trash in the corner nearby.

So, how did we get here? Media influence. 

For years local news shows, public health campaigns, and even TV shows (remember how the Lear Foundation works) conditioned us to be fearful of contracting disease through contact with door handles, hand shakes and various other person-to-person contact.

We became obsessed with the notion that we’d contract a common cold or, gasp, the flu, via casual germ transactions. The media drummed it into our heads, and we reacted with practical adaptation.

People started using paper towels to open doors after hand washing. Pretty cool. Then came the pile of papers in the bathroom corner. Proprietors adapted by positioning cans in the corners near the door in order to collect our new habit efficiently.

Advertising and media conditioning works on all of us. Don’t dismiss it. Through repetition, shame, fear and guilt we reorganize our habits to respond to new perceived threats.

That’s the beauty of it. Think about it next time you see that pile in the corner or toss your trash in the awaiting receptacle.

Media has power.

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