CINCINNATI—Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of Pantene® Pro-V® shower and hair-care products, unveiled its new line of behavioral conditioners Monday.
The new conditioners, which company spokespersons say will "wash and condition your brain, regulating social behaviors for a glamorous, brand-new you," are being touted as the strongest, longest-lasting psychoactive hair-care products ever made available. If successful, insiders say, the line could revolutionize the beauty-esteem sector of the nation's $3.4 billion norm-reinforcement industry.
"New Pantene Plus Pro-V Skinnerian Behavioral Conditioners offer a strong, long-lasting psychological hold, for healthier, shinier brains that are more manageable and easier to style and control," Procter & Gamble spokesperson John Dyer told reporters during a press conference at the company's state-of-the-art beauty salon and stimulus-response research facility in Cincinnati. "Our patented system of nutrients, moisturizers and behavioral modifiers gently shapes and conditions your psyche, guiding your behavior with a clearly defined set of rewards and punishments."
"As you can see here, Pantene's psychomanipulative agents go straight to the parts of the frontal lobe where they're needed most," said Dyer, pointing to a computer-enhanced graphic of a model dramatically tossing her silky blonde hair in slow-motion. "Desirable behaviors such as beauty-product consumption and fashion-worship are rewarded with positive stimuli, including feelings of approval and increased social acceptance. And Pantene's patented nutrients and moisturizers keep working all day long, seeking out and punishing the slightest departures from social norms with painful, burning sensations to the scalp."
Over time, Dyer said, this stinging pain, so severe it can result in convulsions and bouts of intense screaming, "strongly motivates the well-groomed consumer to avoid such behaviors in the future."
"I used to be frumpy and plain-looking," said Kellie Froemer, one of the 2,500 focus-group subjects upon whom Pantene tested the new conditioners. "Now I spend at least an hour in the bathroom each morning, elaborately styling my hair and applying a vast array of cosmetics and sprays to my hair and face. And I never leave the house unless I'm dressed to the nines. Why? Because if I don't, it feels like somebody has set my head on fire."
According to Pantene promotional literature, this patented "Scalp Punishing Action" helps discourage behaviors that fall outside a narrow range of socially accepted gender roles for women. Women who act within the strict boundaries of consumer-culture gender constructs will be rewarded with greater acceptance, whether on the job or on the town, helping them to look and feel their best.
"I used to be so insecure about my looks that I never did anything with my hair," said Jen Claire, another test subject who praised the new conditioners. "Now, I'm twice as insecure, and I spend upwards of two hours a day obsessively curling and styling it. Pantene's operant conditioning gave me the confidence I needed to desperately seek the approval of others."
"Thanks, Pantene Pro-V!" Claire added. "Now, I can finally be the person everybody else wants me to be."
"I used to wear jeans to work," said Hannah Cole, a focus-group test subject and former lesbian. "But now, I wear dainty flower-print dresses, expensive pantyhose and barrettes in my hair. I've also become incredibly paranoid about the way I smell and use a wide variety of perfumes and powders to mask my newly perceived feminine problem odors. I'm holding myself to a new set of standards I never dreamed possible."
According to industry observers, the use of beauty and hygiene products to condition behavior is nothing new. The important role that personal-appearance-based anxiety plays in beauty-product purchases is well-documented, and such anxieties have already caused generations of consumers to adhere to lifelong patterns of buying products they would not otherwise need or want. The new Pantene conditioners, however, have taken such marketing tactics to a new level, actually "soaking, lathering, moisturizing and softening" the cerebral tissue itself.
"For decades, the cosmetics industry has helped shape the way society behaves, both by pressuring consumers to conform to certain narrowly defined roles within 'accepted' society, and by pointing out the inadequacies of those whose behaviors fail to adhere to these restrictions," said noted therapist Dr. Eli Wasserbaum, who tested samples of the new hair-care line on numerous patients. "Such corporately constructed beauty standards continue to exert an ever-increasing force on the developing self-images of the buying public, but these new Pantene Plus behavioral conditioners are the first mass-marketed products to directly, actively punish nonconformity."
"It's really quite a breakthrough," Wasserbaum added. The new behavioral conditioners will hit stores everywhere by mid-February. Also in stores, Pantene spokespersons said, will be eye-catching, end-aisle displays that release one free sample-size bottle and complimentary food pellet after a consumer presses a bar when the light on the display is flashing, but only if she hears a special stimuli-tone buzzer first.