display | more...
In 1957 advertising man James Vicary created and patented a device that would display an image for approximately one third of a millisecond over a theater projector. In collaboration with a theater owner in Fort Lee, New Jersey, he used the device to display a frame containing the messages "Eat Popcorn!" and "Drink Coke!" to a movie theater audience, which was supposed to boost sales of popcorn and coke in the theater.

According to Vicary, it did. In fact, he and the theater owner reported that coke sales had increased 18% during the period the frames were shown, and that popcorn sales had jumped a whopping 58%.

This announcement caused quite a panic in the American media, leading essentially everyone to believe their minds could be controlled at a whim by advertising companies on television and in theaters. Earlier that same year, Vince Packard had released the supposed expose "The Hidden Persuaders", which cited similar (and even more dubious) cases, including one that supposedly had led people to buy more ice cream through a similar technique.

The American public was, however, ready to believe anything. In the era of space zombies, hidden commies, and coconut amnesia epidemics, mind control was something that struck a strangely appealing and familiar note. And so, even today, crackpot cynics and amateur experts on everything will have you believe that subliminal messaging is a very real part of our everyday lives.

The complete and total inability of scientists to replicate the findings of Vicary and Packard, in addition to a personal admission on the part of Vicary in 1963 that the entire spectacle was a hoax designed to make him a buck or two off of his patent did little to stem the spread of these falsities. Which is why, if you ask the right (or rather the wrong) high school psychology teacher even today, you might hear about the dangers of subliminal flashes in advertising.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.