New SAT Reading Practice Test 85: The Woes of Consumerism

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The Woes of Consumerism

Ah, but you see my friend, I fail to be "hipster"
without the checkered shirt, bow tie,
and skinny jeans.
My free-spirited best friend is only "boho"
05with her headband and fringe bag. And my
"preppy" sister is rarely seen without her
bean boots and striped cardigans. One day, I
will drive a Mercedes-Benz because, well why
wouldn't I? And when all of my aspirations
10and the labels attached to them cause in me
a great migraine, I will take Tylenol before
stopping at the neighborhood Starbucks
for my daily mocha latte. You see where this
is going because you are so perceptive and
15undoubtedly a Millennial, known for your
skepticism, feelings of self-importance, and
immunity to the pathetic propaganda that so
easily tricked the previous generations. But,
are you immune to being tricked?
20You would do well to study the following
list of definitions before continuing. They
were all found via a simple Google search for
the respective term.

■capitalism: an economic and political
25system in which a country's trade and
industry are controlled by private owners
for profit, rather than by the state
■consumerism: a social and economic
order and ideology that encourages the
30acquisition of goods and services in
ever-increasing amounts
■propaganda: information, especially of
a biased or misleading nature, used to
influence an audience and further an
■advertising: the marketing communication
used by companies to persuade an
audience to purchase their products
and/or services
40mere exposure: a psychological phenomenon
in which people develop a preference
for things through familiarity
■affective conditioning: the transfer of
feelings from one set of items to another
45to encourage the public to associate a
product with positivity

Certainly, you have ascended beyond the
manipulation accompanying such ridiculous
subculture labels as those mentioned above.
50You have seen it and heard it all. Advertising
is all around you; we live in a commercial
world—a capitalist economy with an unparalleled
attachment to consumerism. But
those sly little devils are far from bringing
55you to the dark side.?Or so you think.
Nobody wants to feel easily influenced.
Yet, I beg you to hear me out: advertising is
everywhere because it works. U.S. companies
spend an annual $70 billion in television
60ads, and this is before we take a look
at other mediums of advertising like radios,
magazines, website cookies, and even those
terrible social media "sponsored" ads. The
truth is we don't like to feel manipulated, but
65we are. Advertising is by its nature a form of
propaganda in that it changes perceptions
with limited information—it is neither objective
nor complete.
Advertising is meant to do a few things.
70First, it informs the public of a product's
existence (no harm in that, right?). Next, it is
meant to build brand recognition—as consumers,
we want to trust and recognize the
names behind our products. Third, advertising
75creates lifestyle identification. The product
is somehow "like you"; it says something
about you; you can relate to the product and
its other consumers. The world of advertising
spends a lot of money and time developing
80strategies to accomplish these three goals.
We will first look at logical persuasion, or
the exposition of facts about products. This
technique in itself is quite harmless. We
cannot be informed consumers without
85information. Yet, I urge you to be skeptical of
even the most straightforward advertising.
Mere exposure is an effective tool in leaving
lasting impressions on the public. With
your only basis as recognition, you would be
90surprised to see how quickly you choose one
product over another, even at a higher cost.
Perhaps more dangerous is the strategy of
nonrational influence, in which advertising
schemes circumvent consumers' conscious
95awareness by depicting a fun or pleasant
scene quite unrelated to the product itself.
Here, affective conditioning allows you to
associate positive feelings with specific
products. For instance, a commercial might
100flash images of colorful flowers, sunshine,
puppies, etc.; and even years later, your subconscious
will recall these "feel good" images
when you spot that product. Psychology
found that this type of advertising
105lowers brain activity and causes less restraint
in the consumer. According to the study, you
are 70–80% more likely to buy an inferior
product when you have paired it with positive
110Just remember, my wary consumer, to use
caution in a society of distortion and illusion.
Advertising can be subtle, but powerful. And
if you think you are unaffected, think again.

Factors Influencing Consumer Behavior

1. It is most reasonable to infer that the author believes the members of her readership think they are

  • A. wealthier than their peers.
  • B. above the influence of advertising.
  • C. more politically astute than their elders.
  • D. destined to leave a great legacy to their offspring.

2. What is the most likely reason that the author chose to begin the essay as she did rather than beginning with the second paragraph?

  • A. To help her readers first understand the pitfalls of advertising before seeing its benefits
  • B. To give examples of terms used in context prior to those same terms being defined
  • C. To provide a modern case study before a discussion of historical precedents
  • D. To build rapport with her readers before delving into a technical analysis

3. As used in lines 1-6, the words "hipster," "boho," and "preppy" most closely mean

  • A. progressive youth.
  • B. fashion subcultures.
  • C. independent thinkers.
  • D. unconventional labels.

4. The author most strongly suggests that the overall attitude that consumers should have towards advertising should be

  • A. grateful.
  • B. subconscious.
  • C. distrustful.
  • D. bellicose.

5. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 1-9 ("Ah . . . wouldn't I")
  • B. Lines 50-55 ("Advertising . . . think")
  • C. Lines 85-91 ("Yet . . . cost")
  • D. Lines 97-103 ("Here . . . product")

6. What is most likely the purpose of lines 58-63 ("U.S. . . . ads")?

  • A. To explain the process by which advertising is created
  • B. To critique corporations for misleading, unethical practices
  • C. To give concrete evidence to illustrate the impact of advertising
  • D. To demonstrate instances when consumers feel consciously manipulated

7. As used in line 61, the word "mediums" most closely means

  • A. middles.
  • B. ranges.
  • C. methods.
  • D. medians.

8. According to the graph, cultural factors are approximately what percentage greater in their influence than the combination of personal and psychological factors?

  • A. 30%
  • B. 40%
  • C. 50%
  • D. 60%

9. Based on the information in the graph and the passage, an advertiser wishing to effectively use affective conditioning would most likely show what sort of a scene to advertise a car?

  • A. The car being driven by a famous celebrity through a beautiful seaside landscape
  • B. The car driver shown listening to educational programs on the car's satellite radio
  • C. A car buyer looking at different car price tags and finding the one being advertised to be the cheapest
  • D. An engineer of the car carefully describing its unique design features

10. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 99-103 ("For instance . . . product")
  • B. Lines 103-106 ("Psychology . . . consumer")
  • C. Lines 106-109 ("According . . . feelings")
  • D. Lines 110-113 ("Just . . . again")

11. Which of the following modifications to the graph would make it more helpful to a consulting firm advising clients from a wide range of industries as to how to best spend their advertising dollars?

  • A. Giving a greater degree of precision in the presented results by reporting the factor percentages to the nearest hundredth of a percent instead of a whole percent
  • B. Reporting the per capita income levels of the persons surveyed
  • C. Adding a breakdown of the relative influence of the three factors with respect to general categories of products, such as entertainment, finance, and consumer goods
  • D. Providing this same factor breakdown, but doing so with respect to different geographical regions