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:
- “inadequate to produce a sensation or a perception”
- “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.
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.
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
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.
Do you think subliminal messages are having an impact on people's decisions?
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