This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
There was an interesting documentary in the BBC's Horizon series about intuitive (or emotional) versus logical reasoning shown a few weeks ago. It was called "How you really make decisions", and a news article describing the programme written by its producer is given here (I would imagine the documentary has been uploaded by somebody on to the internet for anyone interested in seeing it):
I believe the two types of thinking are usually called 'System 1' for the fast instinctive system and 'System 2' for the much slower logic-using system. (I'll abbreviate them to S1 and S2 later on in this post)
The S1 system is exploited a lot by sales people as you say. As I remember it, there was an example in the documentary similar to the one you mention about playing classical music in order to make people buy more expensive wine. A researcher asked people in a park to select a ball with a number on it out of a bag, without being told that all the balls in the bag actually had the same number. They were then asked to suggest a price they might offer for a bottle of wine that was then presented to them, and the participants tended to suggest a price in £ similar to the number on the ball. It's a bit like JEB's idea of a "Trojan number", a number initially planted in your head.
Exploitation of the S1 system is I think one of the major reasons why sales people like telephone selling or 'cold calling' so much. The person being cold called is being asked to think quickly and therefore lapses into the S1 mode of thinking. By contrast 'junk mail', which has been heavily criticised for years by Green-leaning people for wasting paper, gives a greater opportunity for those on the receiving end to use the more sensible S2 mode of thinking, and has the additional advantage of helping to keep the price of stamps down.
But I can think of one example where sales people have gone over the top with a particular visual sales trick designed to appeal to S1 thinking. They are keen on the idea that people are more likely to buy a watch if the hands are set in a 'smiley face' postion, showing a time something like ten to two. If you type the word watches into Google, and then select 'images' rather than web results, you get a large sample of photographs of watches, and you'll observe that nearly all the photos show the watches in the smiley face position. I can see this trick helping a bit, but I don't think it's essential to sell a watch.
Going back to the flag exposure theory, that theory basically assumes a significant proportion of voters are using S1 thinking when voting. My view is that most people, apart from maybe SIF voters, are actually using S2 thinking as far as they can when they vote, even if the overall election results might appear strange. The Greenies are probably the biggest attempted exploiters of S1 thinking in the political arena. They try to persuade the public by doing things which might appeal to S1 thinking, such as flashing images of polar bears and wind turbines at them and parading Green-leaning celebrities in front of them. The Greenies are also very keen users of opinion polls, and asking questions on environmentally-related topics is likely to just produce a load of quick S1 thinking-type responses by the public, easily manipulated by the questioner.
Possibly potentially one of the most dangerous practitioners of the art of manipulating the way people think is Derren Brown, if his TV shows are anything to go by.
While, if all his skills are based on what he says and the tricks work as he describes (not necessarily so?), he is safe enough so long as he sticks to magic but if ever he decided to do something else he could be very dangerous indeed!
In fact it is his sort of use of carefully planted visual images and verbal clues that tips one off to the possible plausibility of such a notion as the Flag issue.
Incidentally, one should not discount the "celebrity factor" in decision influencing. Well I do, but many do not. Celebrity endorsements, especially in an era when "celebrity" means simply being well known for nothing much at all ought to have no effect but it seem, from their continued use including in the political arena, that there is some value to someone.
On the subject of Derren Brown, I'm pretty sure he doesn't do his magic tricks in the way that he gives the impression he does. My evidence for that is from an ITV show that was on a couple of years ago called "Penn & Teller: Fool Us", where relatively unknown British stage magicians performed a magic trick in front of famous US magicians Penn & Teller. The idea of the show was that P & T had to guess how the trick was done in broad outline terms, and if they couldn't guess correctly (which happened about 10% of the time), then the performer won the prize of boosting their career by being invited to perform the trick in front of a Las Vegas audience. On one show there was a Derren Brown style magician who acted as though he was manipulating minds by planting suggestions, but P & T declared that this was BS, and as I remember it the performer didn't dispute their claim (I think P & T guessed how he really did ithe trick). The mind manipulation thing may work to some extent and particularly on some people, but it would need to be 100% reliable for a stage magician to base his entire act on it.
Apparently videos of Derren Brown are used in sales training, as mentioned in this blog post by a blogger called 'Notung':
The blogger is generally sceptical of 'neuro-linguistic programming' (NLP), which is similar to the idea of getting people to lapse into the System 1 mode of thinking, and is critical of Derren Brown's implied promotion of NLP in his magic act.
There was a recent news story on the CNSnews website reporting another debunking exercise by Matt Briggs. I can imagine this exercise turning into a future Youtube video at some point.
Basically some scientivists have carried out a study using a computer model that was originally funded for a different application by NASA, and the conclusion is that the world needs to adopt eco-socialism, or face the collapse of civilisation.
The study was originally reported in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed. I get the impression that Ahmed is seen by the Guardian and the BBC (he's been interviewed a few times by the BBC) as being the new George Monbiot.
If only NASA could separate itself from the Hansen Climate Science in just the same way they are busy putting distance between themselves and this study.
There is a certain amount of fudging around the funding issue and Nasa'S remit that makes you wonder whether these funds weren't misapplied but now no-one dare say anything.