Psychology Wiki

Changes: Subliminal perception


Back to page

Line 1: Line 1:
A '''subliminal message''' is a signal or message embedded in another medium, designed to pass below the normal limits of the human [[mind]]'s perception. These messages are unrecognizable by the [[conscious]] mind, but in certain situations can affect the [[subconscious]] mind and can negatively or positively influence subsequent later thoughts, behaviors, actions, attitudes, belief systems and value systems. The term ''subliminal'' means "beneath a [[limen]]" ([[sensory threshold]]). This is from the Latin words ''sub'', meaning under, and ''limen'', meaning threshold.
'''Subliminal perception''' is the [[perception]] of [[Subliminal stimulation]].
== Origin ==
[[E. W. Scripture]] published ''[[The New Psychology]]'' in 1898, 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.<ref name="persuasion">{{cite news|work=[[Skeptical Inquirer]]|date=Spring 1992|publisher=[[Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal]]|title=The Cargo-Cult Science of Subliminal Persuasion|pages=260-272|last=Pratkanis|first=Anthony R.|url=|accessdate=2006-08-11}}</ref>
== Further developments ==
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.<ref name="straightdope" /> Today the tachistoscope is used to increase reading speed or to test sight.<ref>[ tachistoscope - Definitions from<!-- Bot generated title -->]</ref>
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 (film)|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.<ref name="straightdope" /><ref name="snopes">{{cite web|title=Urban Legends Reference Pages: Business (Subliminal Advertising)|publisher=The [[Urban Legends Reference Pages]]|url=|accessdate=2006-08-11}}</ref>
It was later revealed, however, that Vicary lied about the experiment. He admitted to falsifying the results, and an identical experiment conducted by [[Dr. Henry Link]] showed no increase in cola or popcorn sales. This has led people to believe that Vicary actually did not conduct his experiment at all.<ref>[ Urban Legends Reference Pages: Subliminal Advertising<!-- Bot generated title -->]</ref>
Vicary's claims were promoted in [[Vance Packard]]'s book ''The Hidden Persuaders'',<ref name="lantos">{{cite web |last=Lantos |first=Geoffrey P. |title=The Absolute Threshold Level and Subliminal Messages |publisher=[[Stonehill College]] |url=|format=[[PDF]] |accessdate=2007-03-01}}</ref> and led to a public outcry, and to many [[conspiracy theories]] of governments and cults using the technique to their advantage.{{cite web |title=Subliminal messages in movies and media |url= |accessdate=2008-05-21}}{{Fact|date=March 2007}} The practice of subliminal advertising was subsequently banned in the [[United Kingdom]] and [[Australia]],<ref name="persuasion" /> and by American networks and the [[National Association of Broadcasters]] in 1958.<ref name="snopes" />
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 increase in telephone calls. In 1962, Vicary admitted that he fabricated his claim, the story itself being a marketing ploy.<ref>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.</ref> Efforts to replicate the results of Vicary's reports have never resulted in success.<ref name="straightdope" />
In 1973, commercials in the [[United States]] and [[Canada]] for the game ''[[Husker Du? (game)|Hūsker Dū?]]'' flashed the message "Get it".<ref name="lantos" /> During the same year, [[Wilson Bryan Key]]'s book ''[[Wilson Bryan Key#Bibliography|Subliminal Seduction]]'' claimed that subliminal techniques were widely used in advertising.<ref name="snopes" /> Public concern was sufficient to cause the [[Federal Communications Commission|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".<ref name="snopes" /> Subliminal advertising was also banned in Canada following the broadcasting of Hūsker Dū? ads there.<ref name="straightdope" />
A study conducted by the [[United Nations]] concluded that "the cultural implications of subliminal indoctrination is a major threat to human rights throughout the world."<ref>{{cite book |last= Hammarskjol |first=Dag |title= 31st Session, 7 October 1974, E/Cn.4/1142/Add 2. |publisher=United Nations Human Rights Commission |year=1974}}</ref>
In 1985, Dr. Joe Stuessy testified to the [[United States Senate]] at the [[Parents Music Resource Center]] hearings that:
The message [of a piece of [[Heavy metal music|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.<ref>U.S. Senate, page 118.</ref>
Stuessy's written testimony stated that:
Some messages are presented to the listener backwards. While listening to a normal forward message (often somewhat nonsensical), one is simultaneously being treated to a back-wards message (in other words, the lyric sounds like one set of words going forward, and a different set of words going backwards). Some experts believe that while the conscious mind is absorbing the forward lyric, the subconscious is working overtime to decipher the backwards message.<ref>U.S. Senate, page 125.</ref>
This testimony may have been based on an incorrect understanding of [[backward masking]], however.
Later findings discover that not everyone will benefit from such messages, in fact it has been reported to have certain adverse effects.
== Effectiveness ==
=== Visual ===
Used in advertising to create familiarity with new products, subliminal messages make familiarity into a preference for the new products. Dr. [[Johan Karremans]] suggests that subliminal messages have an effect when the messages are goal-relevant.<ref>Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2006</ref> Karremans did a study assessing whether subliminal priming of a brand name of a drink would affect a person’s choice of drink, and whether this effect is caused by the individual’s feelings of being thirsty.
His study sought to ascertain whether or not subliminally priming or preparing the participant with text or an image without being aware of it would make the partaker more familiar with the product. Half of his participants were subliminally primed with [[Lipton]] Ice ("Lipton Ice" was repeatedly flashed on a computer screen for 24 milliseconds), while the other half was primed with a control that did not consist of a brand. In his study he found that subliminally priming a brand name of a drink (Lipton Ice) made those who were thirsty want the Lipton Ice. Those who were not thirsty, however, were not influenced by the subliminal message since their goal was not to quench their thirst.<ref> Karremans, J. (2006). Beyond vicary’s fantasies: the impact of subliminal priming and brand choice [Electronic Version]. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 792-798 </ref>
Subconscious stimulus by single words is well known to be modestly effective in changing human behavior or emotions. This is evident by a pictorial advertisement that portrays four different types of rum. The phrase "U Buy" was embedded somewhere, backwards in the picture. A study (Key, 1973)<ref>Key, W. B. (1973). Subliminal seduction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.</ref> was done to test the effectiveness of the alcohol ad. Before the study, participants were able to try to identify any hidden message in the ad, none found any. In the end, the study showed 80% of the subjects unconsciously perceived the backward message, meaning they showed a preference for that particular rum.
Though many things can be perceived from subliminal messages, only a couple words or a single image of unconscious signals can be internalized. As only a word or image can be effectively perceived, the simpler features of that image or word will cause a change in behavior (i.e., beef is related to hunger). This was demonstrated by Byrne in 1959. The word "[[beef]]" was flashed for several, five millisecond intervals during a sixteen-minute movie to experimental subjects, while nothing was flashed to controlled subjects. Neither the experimental nor controlled subjects reported for a higher preference for beef sandwiches when given a list of five different foods, but the experimental subjects did rate themselves as hungrier than the controlled subjects when given a survey <ref>Byrne, D. (1959). "The effect of a subliminal food stimulus on verbal responses." Journal of Applied Psychology. 43 (no.4), 249-251.</ref> If the subjects were flashed a whole sentence, the words would not be perceived and no effect would be expected.
In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of James Vicary's original experiment, it was recreated at the International Brand Marketing Conference MARKA 2007<ref>[ Marka]</ref>. 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 brands 81% of the delegates picked the brand suggested by the subliminal cuts.
Studies in 2004 and 2006 showed that subliminal exposure to images of frightened faces or faces of people from another race will increase the activity of the [[amygdala]] in the brain and also increase [[Galvanic skin response|skin conductance]].<ref>{{Cite journal
| volume = 27
| issue = 8
| pages = 652–661
| last = Williams
| first = Leanne M.
| coauthors = Belinda J. Liddell, Andrew H. Kemp, Richard A. Bryant, Russell A. Meares, Anthony S. Peduto, Evian Gordon
| title = Amygdala-prefrontal dissociation of subliminal and supraliminal fear
| journal = Human Brain Mapping
| accessdate = 2008-01-16
| year = 2006
| doi = 10.1002/hbm.20208
<ref>[ Brain Activity Reflects Complexity Of Responses To Other-race Faces], ''Science Daily'', 14 December 2004</ref>
In 2007, it was shown that subliminal exposure to the [[Israeli flag]] had a moderating effect on the political opinions and voting behaviors of Israeli volunteers. This effect was not present when a jumbled picture of the flag was subliminally shown.<ref>Hassin, Ferguson, Shidlovski, Gross (2007). [ Subliminal exposure to national flags affects political thought and behavior]. ''Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA'', vol. 104, no. 50</ref>
=== Audio ===
[[Image:Sox Satanic Subliminals.png|thumb|right|200px|The [[manpage]] for the popular sound program [[SoX]] pokes fun at subliminal messages. The description of the "reverse" option says "Included for finding satanic subliminals."]]
[[Backmasking]], an audio technique in which sounds are recorded backwards onto a track that is meant to be played forwards, produces messages that sound like gibberish to the conscious mind. [[Gary Greenwald]], a [[Fundamentalist Christianity|fundamentalist Christian]] preacher, claims that these messages can be heard subliminally, and can induce listeners towards, in the case of [[rock music]], sex and [[Drug abuse|drug use]].<ref>{{cite book|title=Psychological Sketches|editors=John R. Vokey and Scott W. Allen|edition=6th edition|year=2002|publisher=Psyence Ink|location=Lethbridge, Alberta|chapter=Subliminal Messages|pages=223–246|last=Vokey|first=John R.|url=|format=PDF|accessdate=2006-07-05}}</ref> However, this is not generally accepted as fact.<ref>{{cite web|title=Backmasking on records: Real, or hoax?|last=Robinson|first=B.A.|url=|accessdate=2006-07-04}}</ref>
Following the 1950s subliminal message panic, many businesses have sprung up purporting to offer helpful subliminal audio tapes that supposedly improve the health of the listener. However, there is no evidence for the therapeutic effectiveness of such tapes.<ref>{{cite news|work=[[Skeptical Inquirer]]|date=Spring 1992|publisher=[[Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal]]|title=Subliminal Perception: Facts and Fallacies|pages=273-81|last=Moore|first=Timothy E.|url=|accessdate=2006-08-11}}</ref>
Campaigners have suggested subliminal messages appear in music. In 1985, two young men - James Vance and Raymond Belknap, had 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#Subliminal message trial|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<ref></ref>. 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. <ref>Vance, J., et al. v. Judas Priest et al., No. 86-5844, 2nd Dist. Ct. Nev. (August, 24 1990)</ref>
Another well known incident with subliminal message happened a few months after Judas Priest's acquittal, Michael Waller, the son of a Georgia minister, shot himself in the head while listening to Ozzy Osbourne's record Suicide Solution. 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<ref></ref>.
Subliminal messages can affect a human's emotional state and/or behaviors. They are most effective when perceived unconsciously. The most extensive study of therapeutic effects from audiotapes was conducted to see if the self-esteem audiotapes would raise self-esteem. 237 volunteers were provided with tapes of three manufacturers and completed post tests after one month of use. The study showed clearly that subliminal audiotapes made to boost self-esteem did not produce effects associated with subliminal content within one month’s use.<ref> Eskenazi, J., & Greenwald, A.G., Pratkanis, A.R. (1990). What you expect is what you believe (but not necessarily what you get): On the ineffectiveness of subliminal self-help audiotapes. Unpublished manuscript. University of California. Santa Cruz.</ref>
==See also==
==See also==
*[[History of subliminal perception research]]
*[[Subliminal stimulation]]
== References ==
== References ==
Line 110: Line 35:
[[Category:Propaganda techniques]]
[[Category:Propaganda techniques]]
[[Category:Subliminal perception]]

Latest revision as of 23:23, December 6, 2009

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Cognitive Psychology: Attention · Decision making · Learning · Judgement · Memory · Motivation · Perception · Reasoning · Thinking  - Cognitive processes Cognition - Outline Index

This article is in need of attention from a psychologist/academic expert on the subject.
Please help recruit one, or improve this page yourself if you are qualified.
This banner appears on articles that are weak and whose contents should be approached with academic caution

Subliminal perception is the perception of Subliminal stimulation.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

Further readingEdit


  • Dixon, N. F. (1971). Subliminal Perception: The nature of a controversy, McGraw-Hill, New York.


  • Greeenwald, Anthony W. (1992). New Look 3: Unconscious Cognition Reclaimed, American Psychologist, 47.
  • Holender, D. (1986). Semantic activation without conscious identification in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual masking: A survey and appraisal. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 1-23.
  • Merikle, P. M., and M. Daneman (1998). Psychological Investigations of Unconscious Perception, Journal of Consciousness Studies.
  • Watanabe, Sasaki, Nanez (2001). Perceptual learning without perception. Nature, 413, 844-848.
  • Seitz and Watanabe (2003). Is subliminal learning really passive. Nature, 422, 36.

External links Edit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki