Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Randomization, Conditioning, and Advertising

Astrid Vicas.

Advertising is demeaning, promotes the wrong kinds of values, and should be severely regulated, or even banned. Advertising is a form of commercial expression that is intended to satisfy the individual consumer’s need for information about a firm’s legal offerings. Barring instances of deception or injury caused to consumers, no restriction should be imposed on advertising for legal products or services. These are the two attitudes to advertising with which we are familiar.
The topic I will focus on is media communications, especially visual media such as television, that rely on repeated exposures for their effectiveness and operate by non-symbolic means. This includes the exposure effect and classical conditioning. These can be argued to make up a significant percentage of advertising.
In outline, evidence points to the plausibility of the following idea: randomization of exposures weakens the effectiveness of classical conditioning and the exposure effect. Thus, randomization would undercut the effectiveness of repeated advertising to the extent that effective advertising exploits classical conditioning and the exposure effect. The most practicable way of ensuring exposure randomization is by providing widespread incentives for firms to advertise. This supports commercial free speech and competition. This would, paradoxically for common sense, also most effectively undercut the impact of advertising on individual consumers, if the evidence and theories adduced by psychologists and marketing researchers since at least the 1960s are used as guidelines. In any case, this evidence and theoretical material, which is readily available, has not been, to my knowledge examined for its relevance to debates concerning the ethics of advertising. It is the task of this proposal to examine their contribution to the ethical debate more closely in a way that reflects contemporary developments in business and social trends.


Astrid Vicas  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Saint Leo University

Astrid Vicas is an associate professor of philosophy at Saint Leo University, Florida. She is currently working on projects examining the relation between agency, culture, and values. “Action in the Fast Lane” focuses on the impact of developments in technology and business on our conceptions of individual agency. “The Aim and Structure of Fiction as Practice” explores how collective agency creates value-laden practices.

  • Applied Ethics
  • Choice
  • Advertising
  • Exposure
  • Conditioning

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)