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It’s all in the ‘headline’ isn’t it?

Professor Steve Carter, Professor of Marketing

Faculty Blog

Have you noticed how the UK General Election campaign has been all about headlines? It’s the ‘economy’, ‘immigration’, ‘equality’ and ‘the people’ you know! Has something so important as a General Election been reduced to the status of the ‘celebrity’ culture where the deep details, be they nice or not so nice and often very, very serious in their consequences, have conveniently been airbrushed away? I have just been with a group of MBAs looking at the Consumer Behaviour course, module 5 on ‘Perception’. Maybe the communications gurus behind the politicians have been reading all about ‘just noticeable differences’ and ‘Gestalt Theory’ as well, the former being  where we conjure up an image based on one meaningful snippet of information, and the latter, where we prefer the ‘whole’ to the ‘sum of the parts’. So if David Cameron says ‘economy’ we subconsciously fill in the gaps - ‘reduce the deficit, growth and cuts’, whereas if Ed Miliband says it, we think ‘more borrowing, nanny state and spending’. Or maybe, has the often unfashionable Pavlov (module 7) and his ‘conditioning’ theory more to do with it than we care to give him credit for? Either way, ‘headlines’ rule don’t they?