Many people will remember a study some months back suggesting that exposure to the Apple brand enhanced one’s creativity. Apple users rejoiced; everyone else gave a collective “hmph” and shrugged the study off as fluff. But NY Times Consumed columnist Rob Walker now highlights further studies that seem to prove the same point – as well as a larger one, that exposure to brands overall can have a significant effect on our performance in many aspects in life.

Walker singles out the Speedo warm up parka that was originally designed for Michael Phelps until consumer demand prompted Speedo to manufacture the jacket for purchase. Thousands have already been sold – but unlike the $550 consumer version of its LZR Racer suits that Phelps wore while swimming, the parka will not actually make people faster. Or will it? Walker quotes Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke, who lays out how this subliminal effect might work:

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