A Primer on Subliminal Persuasion

There has been a huge amount of interest and concern among people with regards to the hidden messages in art, music and advertising. Today, subliminal self help tapes has transformed into a multi billion dollar industry. However, many psychologists claim that subliminal influence is nothing but a misconception and the effects are too feeble.

Many people claim it to be a trick, a scientific debate and even as a conspiracy to kill the real story behind subliminal influence. What is the truth and who is claiming it?

All scientists have found through their experiments that subliminal influence is at the most short living, weak and negligible. People who are into the business of subliminal tapes assume them to be effective and even claim that they have scientific evidence to prove the influence true. All the credit for the examination of advertising behind subliminal influence goes to authors like Bryan Wilson Key and Vance Packard. But the real question remains. Is subliminal messages true? Over the years the term subliminal became very popular and was used for anything that was intentionally kept secret and clandestine
A lot of books are available these days, which say that there is a definite probability that we could be subject to the influence of what we cannot see or hear. This is a shocking and dangerous possibility. We may be more susceptible to such influence when we are hearing or seeing things produced by people who intend to do just that.

We are definitely aware that advertisers can go to any extent to sell products, irrespective of whether they are authentic or not.
The two most important issues are : Is subliminal influence real? And if real, does it pose any danger to our freedom of thought?

Sadly, the issue has become highly debatable and controversial. There is a war of words and allegations going on between the believers and the critics. Critics accuse the believers to be ultra paranoid. Believers say the critics are involved in the plot to dominate the people through advertising.

Many people have claimed that the hidden research on this area conducted by advertisers has given positive results. And what more, they say that the advertisers are using these same subliminal techniques to manipulate the public opinion.

The published scientific papers have been reviewed and not many support the claim made by the advertising world. Hence, here comes the conspiracy angle to the whole concept.

Obviously, there are genuine doubts lingering as to what research technique was employed in these supposedly secret experiments. You have to evaluate the truth behind yourself, because it may turn out to be real and true in the future.

I don’t believe in the conspiracy angle , since there is so much research available on the area of subliminal perception. Nothing is hidden. The techniques like “masking” and “priming” are popular and employed by many of the researchers. The conspiracy seems to be too detailed to be true.

There is another distinct possibility that the critics and the supporters are talking about different issues altogether.

Controlled and cautious experiments, indeed, have proved that we as human being are definitely capable of processing information without being aware of it. A lot of proof exists which has shown that performing activities like information processing, learning unconsciously is possible and is very much an integral part of our daily routine. These unconscious activities are not limited to when we are in some special state of mind.

The experiments carried out can be a case of isolating these conditions for study purposes.

The experimental results are weak and not long lasting. This can be attributed to various causes. It could be because the effect is limited to only unconscious influence. Another reason could be that the effects are designed keeping in mind the personality of the participant. It has been observed that when the stimuli is designed as per the individual’s personality, the effects seem to be more concrete and long lasting.

The stimuli that is more relevant to a person, when induced in a controlled, conscious way can be more long lasting and bear interesting results on the way it influences our pattern of thinking, feeling and reacting. This is the fundamental principle behind hypnotherapy. If you want to club subtle messages with perceived ones, reinforce them together.

There are various views on this. The supporters say that the conditions during the experiment do not use the strong subliminal effects. The critics say that effects is weak even if induced under the best of all circumstances. They say that the lack of popularity for subliminal audio tapes is a clear indication that there is nothing called as subliminal influence.

Both points of view are logical. Subliminal effects are weak and short living. However, they can be used in combination with other techniques of influence. We all know that a simple technique like combining a product and repeating it frequently can be very much influential.

So now the question is if the subliminal effects alone can be used under natural circumstances to yield more concrete results. But the evidence available is very less and weak in favor of the subliminal effectiveness.

Nevertheless, the supporters are adamant. They are very ambiguous. Sometimes they say tings which critics don’t even consider important and sometimes they talk about conditions when subliminal effects role is very minor and insignificant.

Skilled communicators have been using this kind of unconscious information process effects since a long time. Advertisers too can use it easily. This type of influence is very much popular and less ethical. Similar to what hypnosis is, subliminal influence turns out to be a method to use the mechanism of the evolution of human mind and its capability to handle non verbal intricacies of one on one communication.

Technology is evolving faster than ever. This will greatly help the advertisers to take advantage of our mental blind spots. But if we continue to remain updated and aware we can save ourselves from any kind of influence. The key is to know about them, to avoid being caught all of a sudden.