Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Subliminal Perception

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The History of Subliminal Messages

Mind Control The Root of Subliminal Messages

Subliminal messages are linked to the idea of mind control, and the roots of this are placed very far back in our history. Mind control is where an individual or group of individuals can be controlled without their awareness. It is perception below the threshold of the individual or group (Key, The Age of Manipulation). The implementation of mind control techniques brought about the idea that people can be made to do things they would not ordinarily do.

Since at least the 5th century B.C., the early Greeks used the science of rhetoric as a way of influencing people (The Age of Manipulation). By infusing pieces of mind-persuading data into sentences, people can manipulate others by the language they use. If a person sees or hears certain bits of information (i.e. words, fragments, or sentences) placed strategically, they can be persuaded one way or another (without perhaps knowing). Based on experimental findings in social psychology and the way in which we process information, the effectiveness of subliminal perception has been continually examined throughout history. Subliminal messaging and mind control persists to be under scrutiny--whether it is capable of doing what it intends to do to the targeted person.

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10s Radio

We have reason to believe that subliminal messaging is effective based on findings in historical contexts. An example of auditory subliminal messaging dates back to the 10s when the BBC began broadcasting on radio for the first time. The people of the era thought the radio was so sinister, they considered it to be the voice of the devil. The BBC wanted to change this attitude, so they placed certain phrases using backward masking in their jingles. This may be an example of subliminal messages being used to persuade an entire nation to respond in a way they would not normally respond. A radio jingle was aired, which sounded completely innocent, but when played backwards it reveals a different purpose. The words, this is not a noose, no really its not, can clearly be heard (from Subliminal Messages and Backmasking). The BBC believed the subconscious could pick up backward messages in ordinary speech. The BBC is obviously still around today, so perhaps this jingle actually did serve its deeper purpose!

At the Movies

Research on the subject dates back to the late 1800s. Public concern about subliminal manipulation can be seen in 157 when a marketing researcher looked into statistical data. James Vicary claimed to have found dramatic increases in the sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn when he flashed the phrases Drink Coca-Cola and Eat popcorn for 1/000 of a second during a movie. The statistics showed an increase in popcorn sales by 58% and an 18% increase in Coca-Cola sales. This is the shocking information that led to an enormous response from the public. Individuals as well as legislators imagined possible effects of subliminal perception on the future--a world where everyone was subliminally manipulated to do what perhaps the government wanted them to do. In reality though, research on the effects of subliminal messages has shown little overall effects in controlled conditions. There is no evidence based in real-world settings done by top researchers on influencing behavior. Also, in 16, Vicary stated that the study was a fabrication and the evidence now suggests it was. He never released a detailed description of his study and there was never any independent evidence to support what he claimed (Packard, The Hidden Persuaders).

Govt Interest

Throughout history, we have looked to political and governmental institutions to examine whether mind control and subliminal perception has been used amongst the general public. The CIA, form example, is one branch of government thought to use this technique in order to gain its authority over large bodies of people.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received complaints of a television station using subliminal messages in 174. This was the first new case since the original in the 150s. The FCC responded by issuing a public notice, which stated their official positionWe believe that the use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with the obligations of a [broadcast] licensee, and therefore we take this occasion to make clear that broadcasts employing such techniques are contrary to the public interest. Whether effective or not, such broadcasts clearly are intended to be deceptive (see the legal issues of this site for the FCCs updated statement).


In the 170s, controlled studies were conducted by the British psychologist Anthony Marcel. The experiments were based on previous findings indicating that a decision regarding a stimulus is primed when the stimulus follows a related stimulus. An experiment using an observer asked to classify a letter string as either a word (juice, lawyer) or a non-word (eciuj, reywal) was used. A letter string such as the word lawyer will be classified as a word faster when it follows a semantically related word (judge) than when it follows a non-related word (juice). Marcel found words that primed subsequent conditions made it difficult, if not impossible for the observers to distinguish when the words were present from when the words were absent. There have been many other experiments and studies done since Marcels time to confirm his findings, but they have used other stimuli as well (such as pictures, faces, and spoken words). These other stimuli do prime or facilitate the following decisions when they are presented in an atmosphere that makes it hard to distinguish one stimulus from another stimulus. The belief is that the substantial information is perceived even when observers have little or no awareness of perceiving as shown by their difficulty in discriminating one stimulus from another stimulus.


In 17 there were subliminal anti-theft messages from the music of Musak. It was shown to decrease theft (internal inventory shrinkage as well) by 7%. Now, whether this was actually due to the words in the music or to other sources no one can be sure (Subliminal Messages and Backmasking).

In recent years, the term subliminal perception has been made more general to describe any situation in which unnoticed stimuli are perceived. Subliminal messages can be seen in our advertisements if we look hard enough. Does this mean we are really influenced by subliminal messages? Do we buy certain cars because the rhetoric used enhances our desire to? Do we buy products because the ad in a magazine persuades us underneath our threshold of perception? Do we drink certain brands of soda because of product placement in movies that we perhaps do not notice? Do we recycle because the cast members in primetime television do, but we do not consciously see this while tuning in? These are questions to ponder while searching through our web site of Subliminal Messages.


sub- limen

Subliminal is a two part word consisting of the prefix sub- and the root word limen. Sub- means below and limen (Greek) means threshold. Thus subliminal comes to mean below threshold. But what is a threshold?


According to Schmed, and the vast majority of psychologists studying subliminal phenomena, a threshold is the point at which a stimulus is perceived 50% of the time. For example, if my aural threshold were to be tested, I would be played numerous sounds in varying volumes. To signal that I heard the tone�I perceived the stimulus�I would raise my hand or press a button, whatever the researches had instructed me to do when I hear a sound. By controlling and tracking the frequency of the emitted sound, the researchers are able to find the volume at which I hear a sound�perceive the stimulus�half of the time. This point is my auditory threshold.



Though a working definition of threshold is necessary before any research can be conducted on subliminal messages,

Thresholds not only allow for research on subliminal messages, they also confuse the matter. Though defined in a professional and statistical manner, there are several pertinent details concerning thresholds making research even more difficult

Already known from other areas of research is the fact that we do receive information in our lower brain that never makes it to the cortex. The cortex is where things are “made conscious”. This is where sensory perception comes in to play. “We are a walking mass of thresholds.” It is estimated that for every 1,000,000 stimuli that pass by the sensory threshold, 1 stimulus passes through the perceptual threshold. This is how the intricacies of human behavior are explained. Humans simply do too much to be conscious of it all.

Vary day by day, person by person

1. Not only do thresholds vary from person to person, but they also vary day by day within one person. So what I can’t hear today I may hear tomorrow and vice versa. It is quite plausible that these variances are accounted for in the statistical analysis. There are safety features, if you will, built into the processing of data (one example being “statistical significance”)

Threshold becomes ‘perceptual threshold’

. Psychologists have more or less massaged the theory of thresholds so that subliminal messages could “exist” and be “studied”. By this I mean that there has been a distinctive breaking of threshold into two parts sensory threshold and perceptual threshold. It is the perceptual threshold that is utilized in the realm of subliminal messages.

Arbitrary manipulation of threshold so that ‘subliminal message/perception’ can ‘exist’/be studied.

Distinguish between sensory threshold and perceptual threshold


created methodology


Eagle’s personality traits most open to suggestion

Meaning vs Method

If congruent to beliefs it is likely unopposed thus unnoticed/’subliminal’

If against, it is likely to be ‘wrestled with in ones mind’

Key is suggestion, not subliminal nature of suggestion


Blind sight

Series of nothings form to something



Yes gender

No question/statement

No similar themes


What isn’t there cant be seen Must present target alone at some point

Forced guess

7% hit when guessing

Are subliminal messages legal?

In Australia and Britain, the use of subliminal advertising has been banned with severe consequences for those who disobey the strict laws. In the United States, not much is being done from a legal standpoint to curn the use of subliminal messages. The Federal Communications Commission, however, will now revoke a companys broadcast license if the use of subliminal techniques is proven. The following is from the FCCs Manual for Broadcasters

We sometimes receive complaints regarding the alleged use of subliminal techniques in radio and TV programming. Subliminal programming is designed to be perceived on a subconscious level only. Regardless of whether it is effective, the use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with a stations obligation to serve the public interest because the broadcast is intended to be deceptive. (Federal Communications Commission Record, 001)

Since most subliminal messages, however, are indiscernible on the conscious level (take a look at some of them in the examples section of this website), it takes a difficult and costly effort to find them in the first place. Keep reading to learn about a famous case of subliminal messages in the court room.

The Judas Priest Trial

Judas Priest is a British heavy metal rock band-one of the first bands of the genre. Their popularity peaked in the mid-seventies, and in 178 they produced an album called Stained Glass. It is because of that album, and an alleged subliminal phrase hidden in the song Better by You, Better than Me, that the band had to go through extensive trial proceedings that lasted over a year.

The hidden phrase was, apparently, do it. In isolation, this phrase has little meaning unless there is some antecedent to which the it refers. But, according to the parents of the two teenage Judas Priest fans who attempted suicide in 185, a hidden do it can have much more serious implications.

In Reno, Nevada, in the summer of 18, the boys parents took Judas Priest to trial, suing the band for the influence that their music allegedly had on the boys actions. The parents argued that their sons, who probably already had suicidal tendencies, were influenced enough to take action after experiencing the message in Judas Priests music. Judas Priest claimed that they did not intentionally place a subliminal message on the album, and made the argument that, even if they had used subliminal messages, the messages should be protected by the First Amendment.

The judge, Justice Jerry Carr Whitehead, ruled that the First Amendments protection of freedom of speech and press does not extend as far as subliminal messages. Since the recipient of a subliminal message is unaware of it, the message cant contribute to dialogue, the pursuit of truth, the marketplace of ideas, or personal autonomy. There is no information exchange when it comes to subliminal messages, and no disagreement or argument is possible if recipients are unaware of the messages presence. Judge Whitehead also explained that people have a right to be free from unwanted speech. Since subliminal material cannot be avoided, it constitutes an invasion of privacy (Vance v. Judas Priest 18b).

Justice Whitehead ruled, however, in favor of Judas Priest. His ruling was based on the defenses insistence that the power of such a message to move a person to action has never been proven (for more on this idea, look at the psychology section of this website). He stated his conclusions on the subliminal threat in this way

The scientific research presented does not establish that subliminal stimuli, even if perceived, may precipitate conduct of this magnitude...The strongest evidence presented at the trial showed no behavioral effects other than anxiety, distress or tension. (Vance v. Judas Priest, 10)

Jon KellyInner Voice AnalystTel 888 45 0751jon@yourinnervoice.comThese are among the most commonly asked questions I receive when discussing this amazing phenomenon. If you dont see the answer to your own question then send it by email to the address above for inclusion in a later version! Question Will the same backwards message be observed hidden in recordings of different speakers if they recite the same lines from a written script? Answer Under natural conditions, we each put our own unique spin on what we are saying. While the written word is fixed, speech is loose and spontaneous, allowing for the occurrence of unique events every time we say something. If three great Hollywood actors, for example, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, and Harrison Ford were reciting lines at a casting call, would each give the same reading? Waveform analysis of the recordings would immediately show unique characteristics of each individuals expression. Backwards analysis would reveal that each speaker would not form the same messages in reverse, if at all. Question Under blind testing conditions, can multiple independent observers record the same message/event while listening to a backwards recording of speech? Answer During the September 17th, 001 broadcast of Peter Weissbachs The Quest radio show, as on many shows, callers were asked to identify messages extracted from backwards recordings of speech under blind listening conditions. Without any assistance and in front of thousands of witnesses, callers were able to accurately identify the hidden messages. This real-world test demonstrated the repeatability of my independent observations. The positive result lends high credibility to the hypothesis that unconscious backwards messaging is a valid empirical phenomenon. Question Are backwards messages a credible source of reliable information? Answer Positive results from ongoing real-world testing lend high credibility to the hypothesis that unconscious backwards messaging is a valid empirical phenomenon. Working in one-on-one sessions, many of them by telephone, my clients consistently speak to the accuracy of the information found encoded backwards in their speech. Live analysis conducted with strangers during radio interviews also produces spectacular results that are usually verified on the spot, in front of thousands of witnesses. These are expert-level results. For beginners, this process will stimulate individual bias and unresolved conflicts while the listener becomes mentally and emotionally attuned to monitoring recordings of speech played in reverse. It is important to simply make note of these observations, without judgment, and seek feedback from the speaking source in order to assess the validity of ones observations. Working independently, beginners may be frustrated in their attempts to get verifiable results. However, after one or two hours of training, a group of beginners can collectively compile very accurate portraits of speakers even under blind listening conditions. FREE EZINE SUBSCRIPTION!

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Answers to Your Questions!Question If this phenomenon is invisible under normal circumstances, how can we be sure that its real? Answer While it remains unlikely that the average observer could detect backwards messages without the aid of a recording/playback device, there are numerous other phenomena that are equally invisible yet have gained wide and popular acceptance. Have you ever seen a magnetic field? You cant actually see the field itself, but you can see the effect it has on objects placed nearby. Have you ever seen an electron? You cant actually see electricity, but you can see how it makes your computer work. Have you ever seen an air molecule? You cant actually see the air, but you can see that without it you wouldnt be able to breathe. Just like magnetism, electricity and air, backwards hidden messages are very real. Question Where do the messages come from? Answer From a mechanistic perspective, it can be said that involuntary muscular contractions affecting the speech organs embed messages within human speech while people talk. Regarding the source of these instructions to the various muscle groups involved in the coordinated effort to encode speech, references to themes of the Freudian Subconscious, the Jungian Collective Unconscious, and Transpersonal Consciousness are featured regularly as message contents. These include references to emotions, past traumas, sexuality, dreams, myth, archetype, future events, divinity and more. Question Why are the messages encoded backwards? Answer From a Freudian perspective, the messages are encoded backwards in order to bypass the censor mechanism of the speakers Ego, thereby providing an unparalleled look into the unconscious mind. Backmasking of messages in popular musical recordings during the 60s and 70s escaped the attention of most listeners. However, those who knew the key to decoding, playing the record in reverse, were able to observe the occurrence of humorous and cryptic messages deliberately spliced in by the artists. According to Freud, the Ego is engaged in the repression of unconscious material that a psychoanalyst will access through the narration of dreams and observations of the client in free association. Just like the listener who is unaware of backmasking in music, the Ego is deceived by the backwards encoding of messages in speech, and therefore fails to censor the message contents. Question Are these really messages? Answer According to Marshall McLuhan, cool communications are low definition signals that blend in with their surrounding background and require a higher degree of participation on the part of the receiver. This concept is an excellent description for the phenomenon of backwards speech. The variations in quality of message enunciation means the signal varies in definition. The backwards encoding assures that the messages blend in completely with the aural backdrop. The time required for skilled, technologically assisted observers to record message events speaks to the high degree of participation required for conscious reception to occur. If McLuhan is correct, these are messages - cool messages. (C) 001 Jon Kelly All Rights Reserved

Where is a persons threshold of consciousness? It varies. Im only noticing the air conditioner in the room because I decided earlier to use it as an example. But until the moment of starting this example I was not conscious of hearing the air conditioner. Would I have noticed if it stopped? I was now and then hearing snatches of music from the table radio, mostly when I stopped typing. Where was my threshold of consciousness in each of these moments? Awareness of the sub-liminal is relative.

If you dont believe it, notice what happens when I remind you that you are reading this. Now you are more aware of an act that you were alrfrom eady doing. When I call your attention to it by mentioning it from within the act itself, your level of consciousness jumps from one level to another. To read correctly, you have to be unaware of doing it, at one level, while, at another level, being totally aware of it.

Then theres your butt. Its touching something. Before I mentioned it, you probably werent aware of it touching anything at all. But its never disconnected from your brain. Yet in some way it WAS disconnected, gone--until I called your attention to it. Then, your butt was there again. When I start talking about something else, youll stop noticing your butt again. Ill draw your attention somewhere else. To your tongue. Feel it in there, taking up all that space in your mouth? Now whered that butt go?

Youll mostly stop noticing it, but not totally. Its connected to your brain 4 hours a day. Normally, you shift your position when your butt tells you to, even if you are totally engrossed in something going on outside your body, such as a sports event or a movie.Thats an example of unconscious awareness, if you needed one.

And then theres the title at the top of almost all these pages. It says ADVERTISING, with the word s u b l i m i n a l behind it three times.

Once you see the words s u b l i m i n a l you cant stop seeing them.

But did you notice that you cant pay total attention to the big word ADVERTISING and to the little words subliminal at exactly the same time? All the words are there on the page at exactly the same time. But you cant consciously pay attention to all of them at the same time.

You have to keep shifting your attention back and forth between the two attention layers that Ive created by having BIG RED LETTERS and the hollow black letters. Ads are carefully designed to manipulate your attention (and memory) the same way.

People sometimes ask Wheres the scientific evidence, the studies that show there is such a thing as subliminal perception and that it works as claimed?

Unexpectedly, the problem is with the word scientific, which suggests not only a specific method and reliable results but a process of open discovery and public sharing of those results.

As is often the case with government-sponsored research, in the corporate world, the world of trade secrets, very little scientific openness exists.The word there is proprietary. Knowledge is owned exclusively by the sponsor of the research, the corporation.

Corporate knowledge is often compartmentalized and made available even within the corporation on a strict need to know basis. Involved employees sign non-disclosure agreements. Violation of contract by revealing secrets is a career killer and law-suit trigger.

When the research has been contracted out to a firm that specializes in that kind work, the knowledge is further compartmentalized. The specialists keep the specialized methods to themselves while the corporate contacts who hired them get access only to the more generalized results.

The methods of the corporations research department or of the specialized research firm may or may not be strictly scientific. Who knows? Most of its very existence is secret and denied (as the cigarette companies have demonstrated).

And its no secret that there is a voodoo element in much corporate research and a faddishness in much of policy-making.

But it is certain that the process is not open and the results not shared and able to be publicly confirmed or refuted.

What little is reported in outlets such as The Journal of Advertising Research only hints at the accumulated knowledge of this subject stored in corporate vaults, a tiny bit of which is now and then acknowledged off the cuff--as a bit of a brag--to an outsider over a drink or three. Thats my experience.

NOTE My favorite gambit is to insult the potential source by ridiculing the whole subliminal thing as a practical joke foisted on the public by a bunch of fakers who wouldnt know valid and reliable research if it bit them in the ass.

An interesting note

Five, even 10 years later, Ive had many people who were exposed to ad examples in slide presentations be able to not only recall specific ads, but also what was said about them, even though only a minute or less had been spent on some of those examples.

What made them stick in the mind so tightly after all that time

Notice how these people are dwarfed by the alcohol and its accessories.

The suggestion here is that the drink is more powerful than any one of them is.

Another message is that, being large, alcohol also has the power to make certain things happen that you fantasize about wanting to happen--but probably couldnt do anything about unless the power of alcohol helped you.

Theres an expression related to falling into the booze. The glass in the foreground acts out that idea by being large enough that someone could actually fall into it.

How good are you at noticing details that are really pretty obvious but still out of range of your conscious awareness as you glance briefly at an ad while turning the page?

Hint Its in the picture. In words.

Everything else in the ad is a distractor from two words.

Look again. Theyre in the lower left hand corner of the picture.

They are separate but connected, one over the other to create a sentence.

Its a standard two-part message to every smoker. Its

Part one is an order Open your cigarette pack

To be able to do that, it has to be a new pack.

Part two is a description The cigarette pack is open.

Same core message as the sheer excitement ad, but in much more symbolic visual language. Almost everyone knows what the expression third leg refers to. But before the womans liberation movement, which was popular when this ad came out, normally it only applied to men. The clue that the womens movement is relevant is, of course, cued by the MS. in the ad.

Once again, the top message and the underlying message.

What is the most logical, but also the least likely, color that you would expect to see in a Kotex ad? The color that fills the bottom of the picture.

The words say protection.

Her face is calm, even inviting.

But the bottom of the picture says flood. And clots.

Notice that it all starts below her waist.

It also says someone will see--or at least the face signals that. What face? The one with the big Elton John style glasses made of red blobs. Here it is. Just below the hand that has the red splotch on it. See the nose and mouth. Looks male to from here.

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