Saturday, 5 September 2009


Stress granule art.

I got to thinking about methods of impregnating the reader.
With information, I mean.
Data sperm if you will.
My question, I think, is this: Does the reader retain information better when under duress or when relaxed?
But I suspect that it's not simply a case of retention, as we might discover anon ...

I've been practising my 'mind reading' skills on everyone. (For 'mind reading' read 'subliminal impressioning'.)
I suppose the results were probably as expected: the technique works well on some people - those who I would deem to be receptive - and not on others - the unreceptive folks.
Still, it's quite a pleasure to plant images into someone's head and then amaze them with your prediction.

Now much of the technique involves focusing the subject's attention somewhere, and doing stuff with your hands and also with hidden meanings and repetition in the words. As such, it won't work especially well here, but try it out anyhoo ...

I'd like you first to imagine a blank canvas and fix it in your mind. When you're ready, I'd like you to imagine two simple shapes - like a square, but think of your own two. Now, place one of those shapes inside the other. Fix the image in your mind. Now give each of the shapes a colour. Again, fix the image and make the image bright and bold in your mind ...
And, with luck, you will have thought of a circle and a triangle, and the colours red and green.

What I've discovered is that this needs to be delivered at a precise pace, which is perhaps difficult to achieve with the written word. Too slowly and the subject might take the opportunity to move from the desired first impression to something more inventive, which is bad. Conversely, too quickly and the subject hasn't the opportunity to retrieve the first impression. Often, I have the subject imagining the triangle and the circle, but don't give them time enough to conjure the colours. Also, unless the subject is focused on me and what I am saying and doing with my little Dennis Hopper-esque handies, they will invent something far too imaginative and cling to it with all their might.
N.B. And if you love to take a beating, free your mind and picture that blank canvas again. Focus on it. Allow a playing card to appear. Bring the colours to clarity, bright and bold. See it there! Imagine the dots down the middle. Fix it upon the canvas as vividly as you can.
Watching Hancock the other week, I was aware of the stressful nature of the scene in which Hancock throws a boy into the sky. For as long as that boy is airborne, the scene is positively charged with tension. Only when Hancock safely caught the boy was I able to breathe again. However, during that time, I was utterly unable to process any other information: I was simply concerned about this boy's welfare. Three of hearts?
Then I got to thinking of other stressful scenes/instances. I can think of several 'up in the air/gravity' scenes. Then there's the smoke alarm going off in Rain Man. How uncomfortable is that scene? Only when Raymond's brother comes in to silence the alarm can we relax again. Telephones ringing! Gosh, whenever the banker phones and Noel is chatting away with the contestant, I'm telepathically willing him to answer the phone. I guess babies bawling on the bus have the same effect. People knocking on a door too. And neglected baths/sinks filling with water.
When our attention is captured within a stressful moment, I don't think we can consciously deal with other stuff. So when I was jesting about the Raiders inciting incident being delivered during the boulder chase, I guess I was making this very observation.

So then these stressfully charged moments become bad places to impart important information?

Well I wonder. Perhaps they are, in fact, brilliant places to access the subconscious, rather than the conscious, mind? After all, when I endeavour to plant an image into a subject's subconscious mind, I must first occupy their conscious mind. Tie one up, and the other is receptive, it would seem; befuddle the conscious, open the subconscious.

Why would we want to do that then?

My son and I have been playing quite a bit of Big Brain Academy together lately. It's startling how agile the mind can become when put under the pressure of a human opponent. In a flash, we are both utterly immersed in the game - in the contest. Note that this 'stress' is created in single play by the timer. The countdown. Yikes!

We also made this collage from old tv guides.

A better example might be sudoku. I don't find the opportunity to engage in sudoku much these days, but during my sudoku-playing days I would set myself a strict four minute time limit. Without the time limit - without the stress factor - I might idle and pontificate. But when that timer is ticking, you're suddenly on a kind of autopilot, charging through the columns and rows at breakneck speed.
Let's not forget, too, that if we really want to connect with the reader's emotional core, we need to go in deep! (Beneath the seven veils!)

I'm resisting the urge to mention the Incredible Hulk. Darn. Yep, the pilot episode, if memory serves, showed Dr Banner, pre-transformation, studying the extra reserves of human capacities when under duress. I think there was a woman whose child was trapped under a burning car or something, and yet she found the strength to physically lift the car and save the child. Come to think of it, I've always assumed that was based on actual events. Hmm. Regardless, we can easily see the extra something that we are capable of under duress.

I suppose we're looking at two distinct types of information then, and their different modes of delivery. I'd say that stressful scenes are bad places to deliver need-to-know/need-to-process information. However, once the tension has been released, the conscious mind is receptive to that information.
Conversely, if we want to secrete clandestine things into the unconscious mind - perhaps little clues or foreshadowing devices that make a reveal intensely satisfying - then throw something into the air or set off an alarm and whack it in there! Or, at least, engage the conscious mind somehow!

And to answer my question: Does the reader retain information better when under duress or when relaxed?
I think the reader retains the information in different ways/places.

I'll return to this probably.

P.S. Rest in peace Smudge. We'll miss you. x

1 comment:

Greg said...

Interesting article on the subconscious. I suppose it is really possible to haress the full power of our subconscious. I changed upon this website before that mentioned deep brain simulation products and how they can benefit a person