Subliminal Messaging - The Psychology of (2023)

By Jordan Acker

Subliminal Messaging - The Psychology of (1)

What exactlyIt isa subliminal message?

a repeatmThe final message can be characterized as any sensory stimulus that is not strong enough to be perceived by our level of consciousness (Broyles, 2006). Images viewed for extremely short periods of time and sounds beyond our auditory range can be examples of such a stimulus. An important element in the discussion of this topic concerns possible confusion in the use and understanding of the basic terms involved. Right after the initial one-sentence definition I've provided, there are three well-known words (subliminal, message, and awareness) that require a fuller understanding of how to use them.

How do we first define consciousness to understand subliminal cognition? Hawkins (1970) found that the distinction betweenknowledgeeknowledgeit is often not clearly specified; he usedknowledgein relation to a specific phenomenon, andknowledgerefers to the more general ability to show attention. Broyles (2006) puts this into an explanation for some misconceptions about what counts as a subliminal message. For example,The shipping company FedEx's logo (see below) contains an arrow in negative space between the capital "E" and the "x", which presumably indicates its effectiveness in transporting them from one place to another. You've probably seen the logo many times, but maybe you never noticed that "subliminal" arrow. But now you can see! So this is really the case.Norepresent a subliminal message: As Broyles (2006) explained, this type of stimulus is not subliminalturn on, or Threshold of Consciousness; how could this besubborderline? Just because you aren't aware of something right now doesn't mean you are aware of it.The being does not have the ability to perceive it.

Subliminal Messaging - The Psychology of (2)

(Video) The Psychology of Subliminal Messages

HObviously, these definitions provide some about the true meaning of subliminal. It is worth noting that the prior exposure of many people to the word may be related to the issue of subliminal messages, as they are related to advertising. So the termmessagecan be understood as referring only to a means of advertising or communication. Indeed, much of the research on subliminal messages that I will be discussing relates to their viability in advertising, and the reasons for this are both historical and practical.everything in nature. However, I believe it is important to keep in mind that the study of subliminal cognition is relevant to understanding how we process and perceive information in general, far beyond its application in advertising.

What's the story?

Despite reminders of the importance of subliminal signal processing to psychology in general, the public and later researchers have focused on the plausibility of using subliminal processing as a means of persuasion or behavior modification (Pratkanis, 1992). Already at the turn of the 20th centuryºExperiments have been carried out for this purpose for centuries. Pratkanis (1992) details a 1900 study in which shadows presented below a conscious threshold were used to try to alter subjects' perception of the length of lines, creating a subliminal optical illusion. The study was never successfully replicated, and Pratkanis claimed that this was the first instance of a cycle where the notion of subliminal influence became popular despite scientific evidence that generally did not support it.

Attempts in the 1940so sublimeFinal messages in the form of rapidly flashing words were used during television programs (Stern, 2015), which certainly showed the enthusiasm of broadcasters given the relative newness of television at the time.the idea out. And then, in 1957, subliminal messages got their "big break". Researcher James Vicary

Subliminal Messaging - The Psychology of (3)came out with dramatic results that seemed too impressive to be true: he discovered that by displaying "Eat Popcorn" and "Drink Coca-Cola", heOn the big screen, sales of popcorn and soda were up 15% and 58%, respectively (“Does Subliminal,” 2015).manufacturingmotivated by money (Broyles, 2006), and it seems that by far the biggest effect has been a breakthroughReinforcing bad scientific research and further obscuring the facts. Subliminal advertising was later banned in the UK and Australia, and the US Federal Communications Commission banned its use on the airwaves and television (Pratkanis, 1992). As the subject gained public interest in the 1970s and 1980s, much of the experimental research (actual in contrast to Vicary's study) carried out on the subject took place. At the same time, subliminal messages were used several times by law enforcement agencies with hoto helpin efforts ranging from apprehending murder suspects to preventing robberies (Moore, 1982).

praTkanis (1992) believed that this haphazard treatment of the subject was part of a general ebb and flow of attention paid to the underlying message, which was dictated by interest rather than scientific methodology. He used Richard Feynman's "Cargo-Cult Science" characterization (p. 264) to capture the overly ambitious pursuit of results when there is optimism that they will be promising. Pratkanis also noted that waves of public interest generally followed the discussion.refutea study claiming remarkable effects of subliminal messages; He believes this odd trend supports his concept of the cargo cult nature of positive thinking. I think fear also played a constant role; the public always latches onto troubling issues as long as there are compelling rumors to back them up, regardless of the facts. Even when it comes to bands geared towards using subliminal clutterage for self-improvement, survey participants expressed concern about being controlled whileat the same timeeDoubts about its effectiveness (Block, 1985). In fact, this seems to signal underlying fears related to the idea of ​​being subliminally attacked.d, tending to very mixed feelings on the subject. And once people are emotionally invested in an issue, they want to see results that keep them engaged, even if it means spreading unnecessary fear. it's good you knowwe recognize that we like our catchphrases and gossip. No wonder we are always fascinated by gossip about (subliminal) soundbites!

Therefore, I will provide a more detailed overview of the research that has been done on subliminal messaging and subliminal perception in general. It is important to disseminate the detailed insights of the known to put science itself, not the public outcry, back in the driver's seat.

What do the studies say?

Hawkins (1970) began the wave of research that followed the Vicary hoax with a mild conclusion that asserted neither mind control nor futility. He conducted a study that tried to influence participants' thirst by flashing "COKE" on a screen belowthe level of coconscious awareness. He saw some changes in the levels of thirst associated with self-evaluations and concluded that messages related to basic impulses, such as eating or drinking, can stimulate action to satisfy this desire.What ifThe need already existed. In other words, people would already have to be thirsty for the message to make them seek it out.something to drink.

However, the Hawkins study was criticized for weaknesses in its methods (Moore, 1982), and nearly 20 years later, Beatty (1989) and Hawkins attempted to replicate the original study, with concerns that too little empirical research had been done to test your theory. original claims. They went to great lengths to accurately reconstruct the study, but this time they found no statistically significant change in thirst (it's worth noting that not only was the change not statistically significant, but essentially no difference was found). Beatty postulated that the original conclusion may have been due to a Type 1 error or assuming a statistically significant result that was in fact a coincidence.

Cuperfain (1985) differentiatedamong the types of brain processing that must be involved in subliminal cognition. He postulated thatKnowing that the initial processing of images is more holistic than a concrete process with words, the strategy of repeatedly launching subliminal messages with images as stimuli may be more viable than with printed words, which were commonly used at the time. His hypothesis was that seeing the stimulus repeatedly can cause it to aggregate over time and become internalized in a way that words cannot. Cuperfain's study used this type of image-based subliminal cue to influence wool cleaner brand choices. He discovered this when one of theElectronic brands were presented subliminally, the change in preference for that brand was statistically significant in each test; however, he used two different significance levels for his tests, and since the levels must be chosen prior to the experiment, I think this establishes a caveat to his argument. Furthermore, only one of the brands that Cuperfain subliminally featured showed an at all change in preference; He suspects that this is because the first brand is better known or because its packaging, as presented in the message, is lighter in color and therefore more easily perceived. As Pratkanis (1992) put it, this is where the optimism comes from, as Cuperfain (1985) does not discuss his findings with any skepticism.

(Video) The Truth About Subliminal Messages

Vokey (1985) addressed the much less frequented area of ​​subliminal messages in music. He focused on the idea that messages recorded backwards within a song could be subliminally interpreted by the brain. Not surprisingly, his study found no evidenceof such influence or even the ability to understand such messagesdeliberatelyup until. There is perhaps no better example of research motivated by unfounded public concerns, as the issue became politicized in the 1980s, reaching a point where, Vokey (1985) believed, many people simply did not take the presence of such messages as proof that it worked. Egermann (2006) conducted a more modern study that focused on the possibility of masked messages below people's conscious hearing threshold, specifically ignoring inverted messages due to lack of previous evidence.before. He noted that some analysis showed that people can be influenced by music, in that music associated with a specific location or situation can trigger more cravings for products with the same association. However, this is the same concept as the FedEx dart: just because people aren't aware of the influence doesn't mean the stimulus can't be consciously felt! Egermann's (2006) study attempted to influence the choice of a word from a list of words and a multiple-choice drink by listening to music with the word and the name of the drink presented as subliminal stimuli. No significant differences (and almost no differences) were observed, and Egermann (2006) seemed a priori to doubt the viability. Knowing how sounds are processed, he said there was no waythe brain perceives a stimulus below the hearing threshold and therefore each stimulus is actually interpreted bThe brain would have to be available for conscious observation.

Another modern study of subliminal messages has mirrored Hawkins' original study, reviving hopes for possible implications. Karremans (2006) used subliminal messaging to promote Lipton iced tea while participants engaged in a task that required them to focus on the screen projecting the message. He found that participants could be influenced either by the desire to drink,eSelect featured brandWhat ifOnce again they were thirsty. Karremans tried to replicate this by feeding the subjects a salty treat designed to induce thirst, and was successful. He concluded that subliminal messages might have some effectiveness, although he acknowledged that it was not known how long after the study the influence of the message would last. Karremans' tone seems to imply that even if practical exploitation of these results is possible, there is probably still a long way to go.

Why is knowing the factsimportant?

At this point, after printingAfter much research done over the last few decades on subliminal messages and their viability in advertising, I think it's worth revisiting the results as a whole and what they mean for the future of the topic. While some of the results offer at least a hint of possibilities for effective subliminal messaging (at leastt in the future), Moore (1982) made some strong arguments about why it is difficult to estimate much about these findings..First, he argued that the lack of a precise and consistent threshold for the population's level of conscious awareness introduces some uncertainty into any positive results. He believed that such results could be caused by a certain percentage of individuals actually experiencing weak stimuli.deliberately, making these results meaningless. Moore also criticized the relative imbalance and bias towards studies with a notable new claim, in contrast to the large volume of research showing no effect of subliminal messages that are less likely to be published. It is this kind of imbalance that has the potential to perpetuate it.The subject is unnecessarily anchored in public consciousness: more interest breeds more research, and more research increases the likelihood of a supposed new discovery, which in turn fuels public hysteria, especially jokes.h is an issue as relevant to people's well-being as subliminal messages and possible persuasion. Moore (1982) concluded that although subliminal cognition is real, the behavioral effects of such cognitions are very small and deserve as much attention.There are special circumstances that we need to recreate in some way and that we need to be much more concerned about.

Therefore, it is important that people are educated on these issues to keep priorities right. Because unfortunately the scientific approach sometimes has a tendencyA general lack of knowledge can help to appeal to the whims of the general public rather than the most promising leads, and can paralyze science, either shifting the field to less fertile endeavors to allay concerns or discouraging confidence in research diminishes under the illusion of uncertainty. While there is much more to be discovered about the workings of our subconscious, it should be clear to those who care to educate themselves that subliminal messages currently have very little practical use.

Some popular examples of subliminal messaging attempts

Subliminal Messaging - The Psychology of (4)

This image from a 1943 Daffy Duck cartoon shows an early attempt by television producers to convey subliminal messages. Hopefully, the "buy bonds" message on the statue, which was only onscreen for a split second, should inspire Americans to, well,buy titles, presumably to fund American efforts in World War II (Stern, 2015).

Despite limited evidence of effectiveness, subliminal messages are still being experimented with in a variety of contexts. This video provides a short and entertaining overview of some examples of subliminal messages in popular culture.

(Video) The Power Of Subliminal Messages | Trick Of The Mind | Derren Brown

a short activity

This video provides a short and concise overview of what subliminal messages are, followed by a short real example of a subliminal message! Concentrate carefully and see if you can get any impressions from this example.


Beatty, S.E. & Hawkins, DI. (1989). Subliminal stimulation: some new data and interpretations.advertising magazine,18(3), 4-8. doi: 10.1080/00913367.1989.10673156

Block, M.P., & Vanden Bergh, B.O. (1985). Can you sell subliminal messages to consumers?advertising magazine,14(3), 59-62. doi: 10.1080/00913367.1985.10672960

Broyles, SJ (2006). Subliminal advertising and the enduring popularity of playing on people's paranoia.Consumer Affairs Magazine,40(2), 392-406.doi:10.1111/j.1745-6606.2006.00063.x

Cuperfain, R. & Clarke, T.K. (1985). A new perspective on subliminal perception.advertising magazine,14(1), 36-41. doi:10.1080/00913367.1985.10672928

(Video) Mentalist Daniel Harel shows how subliminal messages trick us

Does subliminal advertising really work? (2015, January 20).BBC News.Retrieved from

Egermann, H., Copyz, R., & Reuter, C. (2006). Is there an effect of subliminal messages in music on voting behavior?Journal of Articles Supporting the Null Hypothesis,4(2), 29-45. Retrieved from

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[FedEx logo]. Retrieved from

Hawkins, D. (1970). The effects of subliminal stimulation on drive levels and brand preference.Journal of Marketing Research,7(3), 322–326. doi: 10.2307/3150289

[Hungry? Eat popcorn]. Retrieved from

Karremans, J.C., Stroebe, W., & Claus, J. (2006). Beyond Vicary's Fantasies: The Impact of Subliminal Priming and Branding.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,42(6), 792-798.doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2005.12.002

Moore, T.E. (1982). Subliminal ads: what you see is what you get.Marketing Magazine,46(2), 38–47. doi: 10.2307/3203339

Pratkanis, A.R. (1992). The science of the cargo cult of subliminal belief. skeptical questioner,16(3), 260-272. Retrieved from

Stern, V. (2015). A brief history of the rise, fall and rise of subliminal messages.Scientific American Mind, 26(5).Retrieved from

[Untitled cartoon image]. Retrieved from

Vimaco - Video Marketing. (2015, January 8).Do subliminal messages really work?[video file]. Taken from

(Video) What is Subliminal message | Explained in 2 min

Vokey, J.R., & Read, J.D. (1985). Subliminal Messages: Between the Devil and the Media.american psychologist,40(11), 1231-1239. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.40.11.1231

[What are subliminal messages?]. Retrieved from


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