Are Subliminal Effects a Threat?

The short answer is actually yes, subliminal effects of various types could represent some kind of social threat. It isn't probably that people can be turned into zombies by subliminal effects, however it is defendable that we are greatly, perhaps unfairly, being influenced by carefully produced psychologically persuasion tactics.

After the development of modern technologies, for example, such as high resolution screens, the possibilities were even greater. The huge amount of time spent in front of some kind of television creates a potential for a perhaps weak message to be effective through massive repetition.

The whole potential is not that people could be somehow persuaded just to favor a specific product or another, or buy products that they don't actually need. There is actually a potential that the moral could be usurped, or that the political and social structure might be influenced by influences on our voting decisions and preferences on important issues. But this is not limited to "subliminal" effect ! It is also true of several sources of data that we accept without awareness.

To some extent we are greatly influenced by all the mass media products and the situation becomes more tricky with the growing technology development.

Are we currently being affected subliminally ? Even J. Vicary, the founder of the subliminal research, was plainly amazed that some people consider his discovery a threat. Reading more on the history of subliminal effects to put the topic into better perspective, we can come to the same conclusion. J. Vicary regarded it to be useful as a mean to reinforce an ads message in an efficient way, but not as a mean of manipulating buying behavior. That comes closer to what scientific researchers find in the subliminal experiments.

But remember that the main public later come to use the word subliminal in a broader way than that of Vicary's device or image flashing devices. Many of the principles of influence discovered by psychologists also fall under the umbrella intended by subliminal as all sort of hidden message or effects. These are effective, and actually widely used to persuade people.

The danger is not particularly from unconscious messages. It is from all the holes in thinking that can be somehow exploited in all sorts of ways. Unheard and unseen messages are neither highly threatening nor effective forms of manipulating.