Subliminal Messaging

Updated on August 22, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I am interested in politics and in the news. It is great to be informed about what is happening in the USA, around the world and history.

Mind Messages


Definitions of Subliminal Messages

What are subliminal messages? Are they used today, or are they something in the past?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines subliminal as:

  1. “inadequate to produce a sensation or a perception”
  2. “existing or functioning below the threshold of consciousness”

Subliminal advertising is further defined as “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.”

How Does the Mind Work?

Our amazing brains allow: learning, remembering, perception, seeing and hearing, allows us to retain memories, make decisions, to create and understand language. Scientists have intensely studied the brain’s decision-making process over the past decade.

Decisions are usually made on an emotional and a rational basis. We also make decisions using gut instinct or intuition; that is a conscious decision.

Scientist state Americans received five times more information in 2011, than they did in 1987. You will receive 20 gigabytes of audio-video images if you watch TV for 5 hours daily. It has caused some people to have difficulty is deciding what is trivial and what is important.

A sound may be perceived by unconscious cognition that is not heard in the conscious mind. In a noisy environment you may consciously tune out background noise, but the unconscious mind does not.

Have you ever driven a car when you were suddenly aware that you did not remember the past couple of miles? An experienced typist does not consciously think about how to type. If someone has the intent to harm you and moves quickly your way, you will automatically react quickly without much time to think. Instinct will prevail.

Subliminal advertisers have used fleeting or hidden messages in their commercials. These messages may be inserted in other media, such as songs or movies. These messages have been used so viewers will unconsciously process the hidden messages. The goal is to increase sales or maybe change a person’s mind about some idea or event. According to new science, this is probably ineffective.

“Unconscious conflict resolution processes thus furnish valuable information to conscious processes of planning for the future.”

On the unconscious level, touch seems to impart a subliminal sense of caring and connection.

--Leonard Mlodinow

History of Subliminal Messages

In 1957, a work of fiction, The Hidden Persuaders, written by Vance Packard actually made subliminal suggestion popular. Academic and scientific circles became interested. In the 1950s, Coca Cola spliced single frames into the movie reels in theaters. The messages were “Buy Coca-Cola” and “Buy popcorn” This supposedly increased sales of Coca Cola to increase by 57% and popcorn sales to increase by 18%. Many scientists do not believe this to be true.

The United States has not banned these messages, but they are banned in many other countries, such as the UK. It is not surprising that these messages have been used in politics. Al Gore accused George Bush during the political campaign of using the term RATS in a campaign. Gore said the word RATS appeared for a fraction of a second before the word “Bureaucrats”. In the end, Gore was criticized but Bush removed the ad.

Brain Anatomy


Research into Subliminal Messaging

There has been a vast amount of research on this topic. In hypnosis, autosuggestions are induced so people will relax, and they are guided into a deeper (more gullible) part of the mind. Some research has shown that the mind is unable to resist such suggestions, while other research concludes the direct opposite.

Between 2010 and 2015, it was determined that the brain activity levels measurably changed in the temporal lobe. This area of the brain processes emotions, which is responsible for conscious awareness. Other areas of the brain, which are called the hippocampus (partly responsible for processing memories) and the visual cortex also changed in a measurable way.

Subliminal messaging has been used for military training in comprehensive and rapid training, so the armed force soldiers recognize foreign aircraft and ships immediately. The effectiveness of this type of training may be linked to whether a person believes it has an impact, which is the same as the placebo effect.

Most organizations or companies do not use subliminal messaging today because it would cause a public relations disaster if it was discovered.

It is no doubt that individuals can process some emotional information at an unconscious level. They can process pictures, words and faces. This still is not where big decisions are made, even though there could be some influence.

Is Subliminal Messaging Real?

Impact of Today’s TV Messages

While there appears to be no serious or sustained attempt to use this subliminal influence to reach a large audience, I wonder about the messages we receive on the TV. There are certainly numerous political messages that are always negative.

Look at the news shows and the new TV shows this season. The bulk of the women have long hair, parted in the middle, and they usually wear tight short dresses or other tight clothing. The women in the fictional TV shows can kick the asses of 4 or 5 men at one time. They are all thin, and they sure do not represent many Americans. I know the idea is to show women in a more powerful way, but I do not like the idea they have to be about 110 pounds and very attractive.

What do teens think? What about those who are a bit overweight or have acne? I think it is a bad message to have to be so perfect.

Music is the subliminal connecting adhesive in film, or at least in narrative feature films. --Carter Burwell

Teen's Perception?



There are certainly many components to consider regarding subliminal messaging. While advertisers, for the most part, may not be using this type of message anymore, there are still overt messages on TV to consider. It may be quite difficult to discern the truth from the lies.

Today’s information seems to tell women they must look a particular way to be accepted or loved. This is hardly realistic, but I may be wrong. I have not concluded subliminal messages work well, but there is so much hypocrisy in the political arena, which can surely be frustrating.

Subliminal Messages

Do you think subliminal messages are having an impact on people's decisions?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    20 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Genna, Subliminal and other messages that are pushed at us, yet aren't true really annoy me too. I would like the news to be just factual and not one editorial after another. This is what I remember from when I was young.

    They other types of messages, like how you should look, how much you should weigh, etc. are also frustrating. Thnak you so much for your comments about this frustrating problem.

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 

    20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

    Thank you, Pam, for this interesting and relevant hub. Subliminal and other messages that send the wrong "signals" are one of my pet peeves...and that includes the powerful TV communications that are negative and do more far more harm than good. As long as TV as advertisers and producers "think" (I wonder how much they truly think to begin with), these images are what the public wants to see, they will keep sending them. Many people refer to a lot of what airs on television these days as "mind mush," which I think is quite apropos. This article is a must read for everyone!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    20 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Dianna, Thank you so much for your comments. I agree with your opinion about music and other visuals to get a message across.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    20 months ago

    I remember covering this topic with my students in my marketing class. They were used in the past, don't know how much is presently allowed due to current laws. I think one can be just as effective by using music and visuals in getting your message across to viewers. You did an excellent job covering this topic.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Natalie, You must have seen some disturbing messages to be so disturbed. I do not like the idea of subliminal messages. I appreciate you sharing your negative experience.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Mykola, I realized I missed thanking you for your comments and they are much appreciated.

  • Natalie Frank profile image

    Natalie Frank 

    21 months ago from Chicago, IL

    I took part in an experiment during my undergrad. It involved the use of subliminal messages in what seemed to be a neutral video. I guess some people got positive subliminal messages, while some got violent messages. It was a double blind study so I didn't know it had to do with subliminal messages. Starting that night I began having nightmares and during the day felt really anxious. I didn't connect it to the study but I was working for a professor in the psych department and when I said something in passing to her she asked if by chance I had taken part in that study. Evidently several people had already reported similar problems to the ones I was experiencing. The study was discontinued shortly afterwards and we were debriefed. It took a month or so for the effects to dissipate. Since then I feel a general wariness regarding what subliminal messages and advertising can accomplish.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Patricia, That is a great idea. I think I would have to say it often if I listened to the news Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Angels being sent to you also.

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 

    21 months ago from North Central Florida

    This is such an intetesting topic. I have several tapes---yes, tapes-'that I must have listened to a thoudand times. I still use one of the affirmations ...on the tape it would say that when something negative intruded that I should say "cancel, cancel". So as I said I use this today. Thank you for sharing. Angels are on the way to you this

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Shauna, You make an excellent point abouth the volume of the commercials. I think we learn more than by want through hearing sometimes. Thanks for bringing up that good point.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Peggy, I too wish things were like they were when we were growing up as you never worried about messaging. You could hear news, and it wasn't slanted one way or the other.

    I always appreciate your comments.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    21 months ago from Central Florida

    Pamela, one way TV is active in subliminal messaging is through the commercials. The volume is automatically raised because the advertisers know viewers leave the room to get something to drink or snack on during the commercials. You may not be influenced by the visuals, but your mind absorbs the spoken word and even the jingles.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    21 months ago from Houston, Texas

    Subliminal messaging probably happens even if the producers of shows do not intentionally do it. Certainly repetition of things...factual or not...has an impact. Oh for the good old days! I miss them.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Flourish, I certainly agree that many people are gullible and don't really thik about what they are hearing. Thanks so much for your comments,

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Linda, I do not like the the idea of subliminal ads, even if they are just showing behavior or ideas that are negative. We really have to make decisions at a faster rate than we did even a decade ago.

    Thanks for your input on this issue.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    John, I think there are many messages in different ways also. I hate to see ads pop up on the internet too. I certainly agree that ignoing them doesn't mean our brains don't take in the information. I apprecate your insight.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    T, I know there is so much negative messaging not just agains Trump, but even against others. Hillary Clinton makes terrible statements.

    It is frustrating to always to hear negative messages from anyone when so many positive things have happened, such as more jobs, better wages, etc. I appreciate your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    21 months ago from USA

    It’s a good topic, and considering how gullible some people are to overt messages it’s frightening to think about how they would be influenced by covert messaging.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You've written about an interesting topic. I think subliminal messaging is very unfair and hope it isn't being used today. At least when people involved with visual and social media try to spread manipulative or fake news we can investigate the value of the message and make a decision about how to deal with it. It may be hard to do that with subliminal messages.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    21 months ago from Queensland Australia

    Very interesting article Pamela. I do think there are subliminal messages almost everywhere today even if we don't realise it. As you say in the way women are portrayed in advertising, TV shows and movies, the news, but also on almost every page we visit on the Internet. Those pesky ads that pop up everywhere. Even if we consciously ignore them, I am sure our brain still registers their presence and subject matter. Good article, thanks for sharing.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    The Logician 

    21 months ago from now on

    Pam, this is a perfect topic if you are interested in politics. I'm sure Billy in his marketing expertise can tell you to reprogram your subconscious mind it takes repetition. It can be done through positive affirmations, preferably written down every day, or other methods like hypnosis or the daily constant negative diatribes of liberals presented through the media, over and over day after day, month after month exactly like they are doing subliminally fomenting hate of Trump.

    You wonder how or why 94% of media articles about Trump are negative? It's nothing but a subliminally marketing tactic of the left being used to subliminally send the message to hate Trump and TDS, Antifa vandalism, violent protests, these things are all the result of what happens when weak minded unprincipled people are baraged daily with the subliminal message to hate Trump.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ken, You brought up so many excellent points. I have never used DucDuckGo, but I try it. I had a difficult time finding reliable sources, and I think the NIH was possibly the best souce.

    As for news, it is nothing like it was when I was growing up. You could not tell the political opinion of the commentater most of the time. I have started to watch One American News during the times where they prodcast what is happening in the world. I try not to watch too much as it is typically depressing.

    Thanks so much for bringing up so many important points on this topic.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Jacqueline, It is a shame the tape didn't help. I think many people do have that reaction. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Pop, That is so true. I looked at so many referencs for this article and still found diverse opinions, even from scientist and psychiatrist. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Bill, I would image trainig in the field of marketing would make you aware. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    21 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Heidi, I am glad you enjoyed this topic, and I believe there is reason for some concern also. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Ken Burgess profile image

    Ken Burgess 

    21 months ago from Florida

    Interesting article.

    Subliminal or SELECTED programming....

    I believe there is more selected programming now, compared to subliminal, but we are constantly bombarded by both and rarely realize it.

    When you do a Google search, your search has been filtered and selected by Google's AI... you are seeing what those who control Google want you to see, by no means is this necessarily the best, most factual or most truthful information... its what they want you to read, and what they don't want you to see has been filtered out.

    All one has to do to verify this, is do a search on Google or Bing, and then do a search on DuckDuckGo, and depending on the topic, if it is health or political related especially, look at all the websites that Google and Bing filtered out that DuckDuckGo does not.

    And DuckDuckGo is only middle of the road, there are other search engines that are even less filtered, but also put you more at risk of Trojan and Virus sites.

    And of course almost all media sources have long been recognized as social-programming tools, our news, which often is short on fact or truth... is almost all propaganda and opinion.

    Even when Fox argues CNN, or MSNBC argues Fox, they are aiding in the reinforcement of that viewpoint, and the topic of discussion, merely by bringing it up.

    If Fox ignored what CNN and MSNBC said, and stuck to their own news, and own topics, then they would truly be an independent source of news that might be worth listening to... as it is, they report the same things as CNN, sometimes with a different spin, or an opposite opinion, but still the same topics, while other news and events are continually ignored.

  • Jacqueline4390 profile image

    Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS 

    21 months ago from Memphis

    Great article, Pamela. I had a subliminal tape during my younger, more stressful days to help me relax. My brain resisted it ... oh well!

  • breakfastpop profile image


    21 months ago

    It always amazes me that we have traveled so far and learned very little. Subliminal messages may be a thing of the past. Now our messaging is direct and often ugly. Republicans are deplorable, white men are awful and the president is a racist! The only way to overcome this is to get smarter and stronger than anyone or any message that tries to brainwash us.

  • profile image


    21 months ago

    Yes, Pamela, our different decisions often depends on the ready stereotypes spread from the screen, ads, news. Scientists, image makers study carefully our desires and teach us what to do with our problems. They need one dimensional person, remember Herbert Marcuse. Yours.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    21 months ago from Olympia, WA

    I was trained in marketing. I'm very aware of subliminal messaging....not real fond of it, but very aware of it. :)

  • heidithorne profile image

    Heidi Thorne 

    21 months ago from Chicago Area

    Today, we are definitely more concerned about the meta messages that are being broadcast (and you give some good examples). While they certainly aren't of the variety that caused so much concern over subliminal messaging back in the day, they still have impact and are worth scrutinizing.

    Great topic! Have a terrific weekend!


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