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The director of Yale Psychology laboratory Ph.D. E. W. Scripture published The New Psychology in 1897 (The Walter Scott Ltd, London), which described the basic principles of subliminal messages.
In 1900, Knight Dunlap, an American professor of psychology, flashed an "imperceptible shadow" to subjects while showing them a Müller-Lyer illusion containing two lines with pointed arrows at both ends which create an illusion of different lengths. Dunlap claimed that the shadow influenced his subjects subliminally in their judgment of the lengths of the lines.
Although these results were not verified in a scientific study, American psychologist Harry Levi Hollingworth reported in an advertising textbook that such subliminal messages could be used by advertisers.
During World War II, the tachistoscope, an instrument which projects pictures for an extremely brief period, was used to train soldiers to recognize enemy airplanes. Today the tachistoscope is used to increase reading speed or to test sight.
In 1957, market researcher James Vicary claimed that quickly flashing messages on a movie screen, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, had influenced people to purchase more food and drinks. Vicary coined the term subliminal advertising and formed the Subliminal Projection Company based on a six-week test. Vicary claimed that during the presentation of the movie Picnic he used a tachistoscope to project the words "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat popcorn" for 1/3000 of a second at five-second intervals. Vicary asserted that during the test, sales of popcorn and Coke in that New Jersey theater increased 57.8 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.
However, in 1962 Vicary admitted to lying about the experiment and falsifying the results, the story itself being a marketing ploy. An identical experiment conducted by Dr. Henry Link showed no increase in cola or popcorn sales. A trip to Fort Lee, where the first experiment was alleged to have taken place, would have shown straight away that the small cinema there couldn't possibly have had 45,699 visitors through its doors in the space of 6 weeks. This has led people to believe that Vicary actually did not conduct his experiment at all.
However, before Vicary's confession, his claims were promoted in Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders, and led to a public outcry, and to many conspiracy theories of governments and cults using the technique to their advantage. The practice of subliminal advertising was subsequently banned in the United Kingdom and Australia, and by American networks and the National Association of Broadcasters in 1958.
But in 1958, Vicary conducted a television test in which he flashed the message "telephone now" hundreds of times during a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program, and found no noticeable increase in telephone calls.
In 1973, commercials in the United States and Canada for the game Hūsker Dū? flashed the message "Get it". During the same year, Wilson Bryan Key's book Subliminal Seduction claimed that subliminal techniques were widely used in advertising. Public concern was sufficient to cause the FCC to hold hearings in 1974. The hearings resulted in an FCC policy statement stating that subliminal advertising was "contrary to the public interest" and "intended to be deceptive". Subliminal advertising was also banned in Canada following the broadcasting of Hūsker Dū? ads there.
The December 16, 1973 episode of Columbo titled "Double Exposure", is based on subliminal messaging: it is used by the murderer, Dr. Bart Keppler, a motivational research specialist, played by Robert Culp, to lure his victim out of his seat during the viewing of a promotional film and by Lt. Columbo to bring Keppler back to the crime scene and incriminate him. Lt. Columbo is shown how subliminal cuts work in a scene mirroring James Vicary's experiment.
In 1978, Wichita, Kansas TV station KAKE-TV received special permission from the police to place a subliminal message in a report on the BTK Killer (Bind, Torture, Kill) in an effort to get him to turn himself in. The subliminal message included the text "Now call the chief," as well as a pair of glasses. The glasses were included because when BTK murdered Nancy Fox, there was a pair of glasses lying upside down on her dresser; police felt that seeing the glasses might stir up remorse in the killer. The attempt was unsuccessful, and police reported no increased volume of calls afterward.
Campaigners have suggested subliminal messages appear in music. In 1985, two young men, James Vance and Raymond Belknap, attempted suicide. At the time of the shootings, Belknap died instantly. Vance was severely injured and survived. Their families were convinced it was because of a British rock band, Judas Priest. The families claimed subliminal messages told listeners to "do it" in the song "Better by You, Better Than Me". The case was taken to court and the families sought more than US$6 million in damages. The judge, Jerry Carr Whitehead said that freedom of speech protections would not apply to subliminal messages. He said he was not convinced the hidden messages actually existed on the album, but left the argument to attorneys. The suit was eventually dismissed. In turn, he ruled it probably would not have been perceived without the "power of suggestion" or the young men would not have done it unless they really intended to.
|“||The message of a piece of heavy metal music may also be covert or subliminal. Sometimes subaudible tracks are mixed in underneath other, louder tracks. These are heard by the subconscious but not the conscious mind. Sometimes the messages are audible but are backwards, called backmasking. There is disagreement among experts regarding the effectiveness of subliminals. We need more research on that.||”|
Stuessy's written testimony stated that:
|“||Some messages are presented to the listener backwards. While listening to a normal forward message (usually nonsensical), one is simultaneously being treated to a back-wards message. Some experts believe that while the conscious mind is trying to absorb the forward lyric, the subconscious is working overtime to decipher the backwards message.||”|
A few months after Judas Priest's acquittal, Michael Waller, the son of a Georgia minister, shot himself in the head while supposedly listening to Ozzy Osbourne's song Suicide Solution (despite the fact that the song Suicide Solution was not on the record [Ozzy Osbourne's Speak Of The Devil] found playing in his room when his suicide was discovered). His parents claimed that subliminal messages may have influenced his actions. The judge in that trial granted the summary judgment because the plaintiffs could not show that there was any subliminal material on the record. He noted, however, that if the plaintiffs had shown that subliminal content was present, the messages would not have received protection under the First Amendment because subliminal messages are, in principle, false, misleading or extremely limited in their social value (Waller v. Osbourne 1991). Justice Whitehead's ruling in the Judas Priest trial was cited to support his position.
During the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, a television ad campaigning for Republican candidate George W. Bush showed words (and parts thereof) scaling from the foreground to the background on a television screen. When the word BUREAUCRATS flashed on the screen, one frame showed only the last part, RATS. The FCC looked into the matter, but no penalties were ever assessed in the case.
A McDonald's logo appeared for one frame during the Food Network's Iron Chef America series on 2007-01-27, leading to claims that this was an instance of subliminal advertising. The Food Network replied that it was simply a glitch.
On November 7, 2007, Network Ten Australia's broadcast of the ARIA Awards was called out for using subliminal advertising in an exposé by the Media Watch program on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
In February 2007, it was discovered that 87 Konami slot machines in Ontario (OLG) casinos displayed a brief winning hand image before the game would begin. Government officials worried that the image subliminally persuaded gamblers to continue gambling; the company claimed that the image was a coding error. The machines were removed pending a fix by Konami.
In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of James Vicary's original experiment, it was recreated at the International Brand Marketing Conference MARKA 2007. As part of the "Hypnosis, subconscious triggers and branding" presentation 1,400 delegates watched part the opening credits of the film PICNIC that was used in the original experiment. They were exposed to 30 subliminal cuts over a 90 second period. When asked to choose one of two fictions brands, Delta and Theta, 81% of the delegates picked the brand suggested by the subliminal cuts, Delta.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Straight Dope: Does subliminal advertising work?, The Straight Dope, http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_187.html, retrieved on 2006-08-11
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Pratkanis, Anthony R. (Spring 1992), The Cargo-Cult Science of Subliminal Persuasion, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, pp. 260-272, http://www.csicop.org/si/9204/subliminal-persuasion.html, retrieved on 2006-08-11
- ↑ tachistoscope - Definitions from Dictionary.com
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Urban Legends Reference Pages: Business (Subliminal Advertising), The Urban Legends Reference Pages, http://www.snopes.com/business/hidden/popcorn.asp, retrieved on 2006-08-11
- ↑ Boese, Alex (2002). The Museum of Hoaxes: A Collection of Pranks, Stunts, Deceptions, and Other Wonderful Stories Contrived for the Public from the Middle Ages to the New Millennium, E. P. Dutton, ISBN 0-525-94678-0. pages. 137-38.
- ↑ The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry: The Cargo-Cult Science of Subliminal Persuasion by Anthony R. Pratkanis
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Lantos, Geoffrey P. (PDF), The Absolute Threshold Level and Subliminal Messages, Stonehill College, http://faculty.stonehill.edu/glantos/Lantos1/PDF_Folder/BA344_PDF/Exercise%2046.pdf, retrieved on 2007-03-01
- ↑ Subliminal messages in movies and media, http://www.chokingonpopcorn.com/popcorn/?p=391, retrieved on 2008-05-21 
- ↑ Error - - New York Times
- ↑ Re: [AMIA-L] Reply: "Sherlock Jr."
- ↑ BTK Back
- ↑ Hammarskjol, Dag (1974), 31st Session, 7 October 1974, E/Cn.4/1142/Add 2., United Nations Human Rights Commission
- ↑ http://www.totse.com/en/ego/can_you_dance_to_it/jud-prst.html
- ↑ Vance, J., et al. v. Judas Priest et al., No. 86-5844, 2nd Dist. Ct. Nev. (August 24, 1990)
- ↑ U.S. Senate, page 118.
- ↑ U.S. Senate, page 125.
- ↑ http://www.csicop.org/si/9611/judas_priest.html
- ↑ Crowley, Candy. "Bush says 'RATS' ad not meant as subliminal message" CNN.com, 2000-9-12. Retrieved on December 16, 2006
- ↑ Smoking Pistols: George "Rat Ad" Bush and the Subliminal Kid
- ↑ 9/19/00 Speech by Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth: The FCC's Investigation of "Subliminal Techniques:"
- ↑ It was a glitch, not a subliminal ad, for McDonald's on Food Network, Canadian Press, 2007-01-25, http://www.cbc.ca/cp/media/070125/X01259AU.html, retrieved on 2007-03-11
- ↑ Subliminal advertising. - ninemsn Video
- ↑ Agency asks slot-machine maker to halt subliminal messages
- ↑ bizcovering.com: Hypnosis in Advertising
- Dixon, N. F. (1971). Subliminal Perception: The nature of a controversy, McGraw-Hill, New York.
- Merikle, P. M., and M. Daneman (1998). Psychological Investigations of Unconscious Perception, Journal of Consciousness Studies.