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Radio: A Trance Medium


A neuroscientist and a hypnotist walked into a bar. Instead of a “live”, in-the-flesh bartender, there was a guy in a studio transmitting through a video screen taking orders and making conversation. He took the requests. A steady, robotic arm delivered the beverages. After a couple of rounds the video-barkeep asked, “Will there be anything else, gentlemen?” To which the neuroscientist replied, “Check, please.” The hypnotist looked at the bartender on the screen and said, “I, like you, am forgetting it.” Only the neuroscientist got a bill.

Although the neuroscientist has a technical understanding of brain functions, it is the hypnotist who knows how to exploit those functions. Meanwhile, I’m going to be making a number of necessary generalizations while disregarding some exceptions here in order to move this piece along.

People who listen to the radio are either in the radio business or they are not. As our neuroscientist friend will attest: Listening to the radio is a subdominant hemispherical process. That is: a right brain process. People who are in the radio business are more likely to be listening using, primarily, dominant hemispherical processes or “left brain” functions. The former “experiences” the radio while the latter thinks “about” radio and its internal workings – content, formatics, production values, sales, next gig etc.

This right brain hemispherical predominance is consistent with all (that is: every) electronic medium – TV, computer screen, telephones, video game platforms and, of course, Radio. As many people are aware: the right brain is processing information that includes, among others, emotions, imagination, emotional language – stories, metaphors, lyrics etc. - and pattern-completion.

However, processing hard copy like a newspaper, magazine, books and the backs of matchbook covers that advertise career opportunities is, primarily, a left brain or dominant hemisphere process. So is the activity of critical, rational thinking and rational language-generation. Thus, the distinction can be made between those who are casually listening to the radio and those who are thinking “about” Radio.

While an intriguing and jolly tidbit of information, “How”, a radio-person might insist on asking, “does this apply to me and my business?”

Radio has always been talked about as an “emotional” or “hot” medium, and rightly so. Yet, we do flip-flops, high dives in the pike position and fall over backwards in our efforts to deliver pure “content”. Our spots are crammed with facts, figures, products and prices. Emotional elements, which can, indeed, be generated by Talent and Creative departments, are tossed aside for just one more factual reference. On-Air Presenters are saddled with more pure content than they want or can handle. - Any emotional elements get shuffled off to the corner. There are, after all, more “announcers” than there are “performers” working in contemporary Radio now than ever before and most of these announcers are stuck with delivering “content”. Plus, we are hearing less and less of them anyway – “96 commercial-free minutes of The Best Music of All Time” being what it is… or isn’t.

Clinical hypnotists are somewhat jealous of electronic media, as the hypnotists have to work their tails off to skillfully gain access to the unconscious levels of the subdominant hemisphere, thereby developing a trance state. Broadcasters – we freeloading buggers - get it gratis. No charge! Observing a family member as they are watching TV can be an extraordinary example of that. The glassy-eyed stare and the dribbling drool are pretty good evidence that a substantial, high-orbit trance has been achieved.

Another, more malicious example is that of someone driving along while on their cell phone. I say “malicious”, because I’m trashing the proponents of the “hands-free” use of cell phones as: purveyors of a bogus and dangerous proposition. Listening to the phone takes up the right brain and generating language for responding engages the left brain. And that leaves very little brain left over to watch for traffic, kids, cats and other people blissfully and blindly wandering around while on their own cells.

Further, anyone who has ever tried to edit copy from an electronic screen need wonder no longer why their spelling, grammar and typographical errors happen so frequently and get caught so incompletely in the editing process. It’s because the electronic visuals of it all are being processed by the right brain. Were we to do our editing using hard copy and a pencil instead, we would be engaged in a left brained process and pick up the smelling and rypo mistakes so much easerly. But, such is not the common practice anymore. The convenience of the confuser keyboard and the addictive impacts of a computer screen… lead us off…. and… far away…. (“Peter! I can fly!”)

Since Radio is accepted as a “hot/emotional medium” and is, primarily, processed through that part of the brain that works at levels of imagination and emotion, we do ourselves a huge disservice by suppressing or sometimes completely eliminating those elements in our programming and commercials – the very elements that generate emotional responses. Although I cringe to admit it, the reason the “yell & sell” spots still have some impact is because of the poor, exploited announcer faking some delirious excitement – an emotional element. That those spots are also grating and insulting tune-out factors is another matter.

The teachers of clinical hypnosis have a wonderful edict: “Eliciting a trance is one thing. The important part is in how it is utilized!”

Since Radio gets a workable form of the trance-state going in and right up front - for free, we might be well served by considering how better to utilize the emotional and influential potentials it provides.

Meanwhile, there are other more sobering factors involved in all this righty-lefty, brainy stuff. I’m thinking of one in particular - not a terminal factor, but certainly a discomforting one about which radio-types need to be apprised and cautioned. And this self-appointed Vice President In Charge of Everything will be enthusiastically and warmly revealing that… and more… next time…right here…at Radio Ink! Yes, indeed! Big Fun! (Jingle out).

(9/13/2013 3:55:43 PM)
Jr9Ko5 A big thank you for your article post. Cool.

- NY
(9/5/2013 6:50:35 PM)
EKVQmg I really enjoy the blog post. Cool.

- NY
(11/29/2011 12:04:04 PM)
As to Mr. van Winkle's comment: Indeed, it is difficult to communicate to someone who has just woken.
Otherwise, Rip seems to have demonstrated the point. It IS harder to concentrate on Pure Content that is delivered through an electronic medium. "Flaming" - being of an emotional nature - is so much easier.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(11/29/2011 11:50:51 AM)
Hoo-boy! And to think: For many folks, this is only going to get worse! For some... downright terrifying. For others....well, we'll, see.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(11/29/2011 10:04:54 AM)
Someone has confused "trance" with "hallucination."

Lay off the `shrooms, dude.

- Steve

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