Subliminal messages are messages you do not actively perceive, but receive nevertheless. This can be done using many different techniques, like flashing one frame of the message in a movie. The human brain does not consciously perceive this, and yet the message is registered. Other techniques could include a subtle mention of commercial products, such as having a character in a movie drinking a can of Pepsi, or even mentioning such a product in a node.

You may have heard of the latest scandal in the Bush campaign. The word 'Rats' was flashed over a Gore prescription drug proposal in a Republican ad. It remains to be seen whether this will have an up or down effect on the way Americans vote in the upcoming elections. In any case, this kind of message can have a terrific impact on the mind, especially as it is not conscious.

Noders will be happy to know that once a person is aware that he has seen a subliminal message, its effect is significantly decreased.

A few weeks ago (late August, 2000), the GOP ran a commercial message endorsing George Dubya Bush and criticizing Al Gore. One of the things the advertisement did was flash 'bureaucrats' on the screen, two parts at a time. First 'bureau', then 'crats'. However, the 'c' was very much off screen, leaving only the tips of the 'c' and the word 'rats'. Many think that this is intentional, and the GOP has taken flak for running such an ad.

However, the GOP cannot be liable, the only ones who can be liable are the stations who ran the advertisement. A court needs to prove that the stations knew of the message before running the advertisement.

Since 1974, the FCC has spoken against subliminal advertising. This does not stop advertisers, however, as they know that the strongest message is the one which is not immediately apparent. It is best to keep a keen eye when viewing advertisements, lest be taken in by the contents without realizing it.

Certainly there are people
out there who would like to make
one such as yourself think that
life has some sense of freedom.

Underneath it all though, those
people are really controlling your
view of this world: what you see,
own, and think. At times your very
thoughts may not even be yours.
Eventually when do you lose you?

I know that I can see it all around me;
nothing today is without these reminders.
Subliminal messages are one way that you and
I are kept in line. They can be used for
good, or for evil; as in Bush's
highly scrutinized commercial, or in an ad
to combat smoking in teens. Larger
font sizes, clips inside of movies,
underlying rhythms in sentences, and
layered pages are good examples of them.

Throughout our lives we have listened to them;
here, there, everywhere. Everyone likes to
influence our complex visions and thoughts to
notions. From messages inside of music say to
kill; to a popcorn frame telling you to be hungry.

We listen perhaps too closely to these messages in
everyday life. People have to listen to their
little spark of reason, and not that on in the
latest CD or newspaper.

Do we want to be individuals? Many claim we depend
on one another for protection and survival:
nothing more than well trained animals;
entirely breft of free will.

All good teens take off their clothes -
whispered Aladdin to the tiger. It seems that
even Disney movies are not about trying to
seduce our mind. I find it very disturbing that
one of the biggest producers of animated
movies has inapprioprate content in almost
every one of its feature length films.

Summarily, a lot of times in my life I can't put
my finger on what it is. A feeling that I get
inside when I read something or happen to
look quickly at a page of text. I know they're in
everything, but I just can't seem to care.

Read closely....

Okay two things. One: there are no links on purpose. Trust me. Two: if you don't get it, /msg me and I'll gladly explain all of it.

Spoilers are kinda neat

Subliminal messages have no effect!

The biggest problem with subliminal messages is that they have become a powerful media myth. Personally, I blame James Vicary but Wilson Bryan Key does have some answering to do.

In 1957, James was a small-time theatre owner with a failing advertising business. According to popular legend and his press release, he flashed the words "EAT POPCORN" and "DRINK COKE" onto the screening of a film for 1/3000th of a second each. The results were astonishing. Sales of the popular caffeinated beverage rose by 18.1%, and popcorn sales by 57.7%. Upon reading the subsequent news reports, people were outraged. Governments secretly studied it as a propaganda weapon. Vicary was paid an undisclosed sum. Whilst the meme was planted by James, it was Wilson Bryan Key who helped it germinate nicely.

In the years 1973 through 1989, Key wrote four fantastically paranoid, but nonetheless best-selling books on the subject, despite the fact that he was shamelessly ripping off Vance Packard's discredited 1957 text The Hidden Persuaders. Using a heady brew of pop Freudianism and dodgy science, Key argued that subliminal messages (and smut) were not only in the television or films that you watch, but in any printed image. People are shagging in the ice cubes. That cloud spells "Sex". In Key's own words,

Every person reading this book has already been victimized and manipulated by the use of subliminal stimuli directed into his unconscious mind by the mass merchandisers of media. The techniques are in widespread use by media, advertising and public relations agencies, industrial and commercial corporations, and by the Federal Government itself.

Again, the public was outraged. Australia, Britain and the US of A kept their illicit psy-ops research quiet, and outlawed this corrupting practice. A Nevada judge ruled that subliminal advertising wasn't covered by the First Amendment. However, accusations of the use of subliminal messages continued well into the end of the millennium. In the summer of 1990, death metal proponents Judas Priest were placed on trial for allegedly implanting the words "DO IT" into their one of their songs. Two young fans had committed suicide after repeatedly listening to the band's woeful 1990 release, Painkiller. Frankly, I don't blame them.

Sadly for rock aficionados, Judas Priest got away with it, thanks solely to the weight of evidence. In the 1980s alone, over 200 studies were published on whether subliminal messages influenced behavior. Almost all of the studies failed to find any effect, and those that did were either methodologically flawed or could not be repeated. In an excellent review article on the field in 1988, Anthony Pratkanis and Eliot Aronson conclude that

there is no empirical documentation of subliminal effects, such as inducing particular behaviors or changing motivation. Moreover such a notion is incompatible with experimentally based conceptions of information processing, learning, and motivation.

This raises the much scarier question, if subliminal messages don't have any effect, why do people believe in them? Why do people think that the supraliminal imagery in Fight Club is supposed to be subliminal? Why don't teenagers take off their clothes whilst watching a certain Disney film, for no apparent reason? For starters, I'll give two reasons why people believe in subliminal messages.

1. Blame the Media

Shadowy conspiracy and weird science makes damn good news. Damn good news sells more ads. When industry publication The Advertising Age interviewed James Vicary after he'd fallen out of vogue, he publicly admitted that he had made the whole thing up. He never did the experiment in the first place. Sadly, only marketing pundits were reading. As a rule however, when the topic of subliminal messages is broached by the mainstream media, it fails to mention the incontrovertible evidence against their effectiveness. If it does mention any decent study, generally the coverage will be cursory, lending to the appearance that the effectiveness of subliminal messages is controversial rather than nonexistent. News media doesn't want to create cognitive dissonance. It makes people feel uneasy. Uneasy people change channels. Or worse, they switch off.

2. Blame the General Structure of Society, etc.

A belief that something else controls you by an unseen mechanism is as old as the deity of your choice. The problem with looking at or for subliminal messages is that it directs attention away from the blatant persuasion tactics employed on an everyday basis. It takes a lot less cognitive effort to blame something unseen, rather than to structure and counterargue solid persuasion. The persistence of the subliminal persuasion myth is the result of people not thinking. It will be destroyed.

The Wilson Bryan Key quote is from Subliminal Seduction (1973). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Signet. Apparently one of his more recent books is titled The clam-plate orgy. I can hardly wait to find it. Pratkanis and Aronson quote comes courtesy of "Recent perspectives on unconscious processing: Still no marketing applications" Psychology and Marketing(1982) 5, pp.339-355. Another excellent review article is Moore, T.E. (1982)"Subliminal advertising: What you see is what you get." in Journal of Marketing 46, pp.38-47. On somewhat of an aside, its fascinating that the first round of subliminal panic occurred after the Korean War. Think of brainwashing and The Manchurian Candidate. Cold War paranoia, and such. The second round occurred during the Watergate years. Think of Arthur Jensen in Network. Government conspiracy paranoia, and such. Isn't subliminal advertising just The Invisible Hand whispering, convincing you to buy more shit, anyhow?

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