Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Pepsi Challenge

The “Pepsi challenge” was a marketing campaign by Pepsi, where a person blindly takes sips from two different cups – one of Coke, one of Pepsi – and states which tastes better. The Pepsi challenge showed that people tended to prefer Pepsi to Coke in a blind sip test. This caused significant controversy and even led Coca-Cola to trial a change in their classic recipe, which failed disastrously.

Of course, there are many reasons why the results of this challenge may be invalid, as Malcolm Gladwell explored in his book Blink. The challenge is designed to isolate just a snapshot experience of each drink. Ergo, people tend to prefer a single sip of the sweeter, more citreous drink that is Pepsi, when they may not have enjoyed it as much if they had to drink an entire bottle.

Furthermore, multiple studies and experiments in the marketing field show a psychological phenomenon called sensation transference. This is when our perception of a sense is affected by other information such as the brand name, packaging or even the colour of the food or drink. For example, margarine was originally white but yellow colour was added to make it look more “butter-like”, greatly increasing sales.

This shows how little things that we may find insignificant can affect our decisions and first impressions. Our subconscious mind is a powerful processor that makes rapid assessments from a sea of information, while not bothering the conscious mind. We might buy a certain wine because the bottle looks more premium than another bottle. We may fall in love with someone because of a small detail like the way their nose looks. But at the same time, it can be just as easily misled as it uses only the information given to it at the time.

So the question is not how powerful your gut instinct is, but if you know yourself well enough to trust it.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Life Review

They say that when you face your mortality, your entire life flashes before your eyes like a sped-up autobiographical film. This tends to happen in situation where a person feels they are in danger of imminent death, such as moments before a car crash. Reports say that the event typically lasts anywhere between less than a second to few seconds, and what they perceive as major life events flash before their eyes, usually in chronological order. However, reports are very subjective and variable.

This phenomenon sounds very clichéd, but it has been widely reported throughout time and space. Over 8 million people in the United States of America stated that they experienced this “life review” in a near-death experience, with countless records in historical texts, reaching far back as at least 1795 in a letter by Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort. It is fascinating to see that there is even a set name or phrase for this phenomenon deeply ingrained in various languages, such as English, German, French, Dutch, Russian, Persian, Arabian and Korean, suggesting that the phenomenon is widespread and common.

There is no strong evidence for why this phenomenon occurs, but there is one theory that is persuading. The brain is always subconsciously referring to past experiences and knowledge to apply to the present to help solve a problem. It has been suggested that when you are at the brink of death, the brain frantically searches through everything in an attempt to save you from demise. This is a rather messy process as the brain does not routinely encounter such near-death experiences and does not have much information to refer to immediately. In this process, it brings up every memory that you thought you had forgotten, which you see as a montage flashing before your eyes. For example, a man who was attacked by a great white shark reported that out of nowhere, he recalled his son watching a documentary on sharks and remembered that putting your hands down a shark’s gills will incapacitate it. Thanks to this, he survived.

The brain does indeed have an amazing ability to alter your speed of thought and delay time perception when you are in danger, or the so-called “fight-or-flight” mode. There is much anecdotal evidence of firefighters instinctively knowing that a building will collapse very soon, or emergency physicians making complex clinical decisions in the blink of an eye by drawing from a well of past experiences.

Calvin and Hobbes

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