The biscuits currently sitting in the biscuit box at the office in which I occasionally work are those rectangular sugary ones labelled “Nice”.

Although not my favourite type of biscuit, they really are extremely nice. I had eaten several today when I suddenly stopped and thought, “Why bother to label the biscuits “Nice” when it’s patently obvious to anybody eating them that they are nice?”

For a while I wondered if this was the equivalent of signing for the deaf in orchestral concerts, a description of the biscuit for people unfortunate enough to lack the ability to taste.

Then a more sinister thought occurred to me. Do the makers of this particular brand of biscuit hope that, with the subliminal suggestion that the biscuit will be nice imprinted on the eater’s brain prior to eating, the eater will naturally assume that it is nice without actually bothering to taste it?

Well, thought I. They will not entrap me with any such psychological ploy.

Then I realised that I do think the biscuits are nice. I was munching my way through my seventh for precisely that reason. Alarmed, I wondered if my mind had been twisted by the subliminal suggestions of the innocent-looking writing on the front of the biscuit. Of course, there was the possibility that the biscuits are actually nice, and my taste buds had not been fooled at all. But how to be sure?

I decided to set up an experiment; I prepared three biscuits, one with the word “Nice” on the front as usual, the basic biscuit under scrutiny. Secondly, I took a biscuit of the same brand but scratched the word “Nice” off with a paper clip, to see if that made a difference to the taste. Thirdly, as a control, I had not a biscuit at all but just air.

The air tasted of just air. The unaltered “Nice” biscuit tasted nice. The biscuit with the word “Nice” scratched off it also tasted nice.

What am I to conclude? Have I been exposed to the “Nice” biscuits for too many years to be able to resist the suggestion of the word “Nice” even when it is concealed? Is the taste of the biscuit alone now enough to fool me into enjoying it?

It is a frightening thought that biscuit companies hold such power over consumers.

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