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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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9 Don't Get Labelled

“What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare

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Wouldn't it be nice if we got a warning like this every time we were unconsciously influenced by things around us? That's the aim of this hack. It's not about how you control your brain, but how outside influences control it.

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, but Words They Can Control You

Language and how it is used has a very powerful effect on us.

I've often thought that when visiting websites, we more readily “accept cookies” because of the language used. Cookies collect data on the sites we use and also if you are buying something, your credit card details. Until the Internet came along, the only association with the term “cookies” was biscuits – and who doesn't like biscuits?

I'm sure that the previous positive association has an effect. Imagine how differently we'd feel if every time we went to a site and the message popped up, “Do you accept shadowing?”. Of course, the word “cookies” wasn't called this to be less sinister; it actually derives from UNIX objects called “magic cookies”. Imagine if they used that? Who could refuse the offer of magic cookies?

These are just my thoughts, but there are very real and scary examples of language having a strong effect on people's decisions.

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