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Analysis Of Advertising And Behaviour Control

1005 words - 5 pages

Sunny Johal 3492527 

Analysis of Advertising and Behaviour Control by Robert L. Arrington 
 
Observation: In his essay, “Advertising and Behaviour Control,” Robert L. Arrington 
provides a discussion on the power of advertisements. He attempts to solve whether or not 
businesses are acting unethically when advertising. The question raised asks: Do advertisements 
lead to a loss of autonomy in humans? Arrington begins his argument by presenting 
advertisements that suggest unrealistic outcomes from the use of certain products. He refers to 
this practice as “puffery” (283), a perfectly legal advertising tool which precisely appeals to  ...view middle of the document...

” Journal of Business Ethics. 1982. 283­289. Web. 
13 November 2013. 

Sunny Johal 3492527 

being the same. Not all decisions are influenced by these physical desires, people have 
preferences that make them original. This originality is brought on by “culturally induced” 
desires. What makes it original is that a person chooses which desires are true to them. Arrington 
explains this very simply with “Frankfurt‘s” concept of a “desire to not have another desire.” A 
very attractive advertisement using “puffery” may cause a non­autonomous desire to buy Vodka 
until the autonomous desire of restraining from alcohol leads to that person choosing the desire 
that is original to them (286). 
Furthermore, those who are concerned that non­autonomous desires are being instilled by 
advertisers will surely fear that rationality and choice will be compromised. The argument here is 
that advertisers do not present all the facts, and simply present those that will be attractive to the 
consumer. This is not fair to the consumer because they may develop a desire that is not actually 
true to their rational self. If one’s rationality is violated, there autonomy is consequently violated 
as well. Arrington points out that “rational desire or choice is… based upon relevant information 
and information is relevant if it shows how other, prior desires may be satisfied.” This means that 
people observe ads and determine for themselves what information is relevant based on their 
already existing, original, autonomous desires. It is one’s rational desire to purchase a vehicle 
advertised as being spacious if they have an existing desire for comfort (287).2  
Moreover, the fear of losing rationality when viewing advertisements is especially 
concerning for those who believe free choice is at risk. This argument states that a person may 
not be able to act rationally at all because the advertisements are causing them to act 
involuntarily. This would occur because an advertisement causes an “irresistible impulse or 

2

 Arrington, Robert L. “Advertising and Behaviour Control.” Journal of Business Ethics. 1982. 283­289. Web. 
13 November 2013. 

Sunny Johal 3492527 

unconscious drive” in a person. Arrington states that there are impulses “we do not resist and ...

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