Getting Sleeeepy...

for profit in the offices of the French commercial genius psychiatrist Dr. Clotaire Rapaille

Based on Rapaille's research, Folgers came up with the now-famous TV commercial featuring a GI who returns home for Christmas and wakes up mom by sneaking into the kitchen and brewing a steaming pot of Folgers. The company has been selling on smell ever since.

Thirty years ago Rapaille was a 29-year-old child psychiatrist working in France and Switzerland, trying to figure out why autistic children had a difficult time learning language. He made two important discoveries -- that words are imprinted and that said imprint is given meaning, context, and permanence when coupled with emotion. He also learned that children from different cultures imprint words differently. In France the first memory of wine is different than in the United States, for example, because of the different ways the cultures view alcoholic beverages.

It was exciting stuff, but Rapaille nonetheless failed to make any progress with autism. "Because these children don't experience emotion the same way we do, they had a hard time to learn the language," he says. And he got frustrated trying.

Dr. Rapaille probes the subconscious for insight and cash
Dr. Rapaille probes the subconscious for insight and cash

In those days Rapaille also taught at a university in Geneva. One day a student asked if his father could attend a lecture, and Rapaille agreed. After class the man introduced himself as a Nestlé executive and suggested Rapaille could help the company sell instant coffee in Japan. At the university Rapaille earned "less than a maid," he says. Nestlé offered him a handsome salary, computers, assistants, and time to put his imprinting theories to the test. He took a sabbatical and never returned.

The notion that different cultures imprint differently explains why our group is made up of second- and third-generation Americans: Rapaille is studying how cultures around the world really feel about globalization. The U.S. is the first stop, then it's on to England, Europe, Asia, and points in between.

Back across the hall, Castellano turns up the lights a notch, signaling the end of our psychic train ride to the land of no choice. Castellano asks for memories, specifics, details, feelings. Then we get to work scribbling experiences on white note pads. I write about the time Mom decided it was time for me, then a teenager, to do my own laundry. If I wanted clean clothes, there was no choice. Ideally we are still in a near-trance as we write, tapping the same current of creativity that flows freely right after a good sleep.

Then we pile our pads on the floor in the middle of the room and file out to collect the $75. An hour has passed. Easy money. Or did we sell our souls cheap?

After sifting through our subconscious droppings, Dr. Rapaille and the corporate types gathered across the hall conclude Americans, or at least this group, believe we're the last, best hope for mankind; that the rest of the world wants to be like us; and that God is behind us. We also believe foreigners don't always play by the rules and that globalization is a good thing if it doesn't cost us our jobs.

What will come of all this is unclear. It is certain that big corporations are salivating like Pavlov's dog for Rapaille's pronouncements. If someday you suddenly find yourself feeling warm and fuzzy about globalization, thank the good doctor.

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