Subliminal Influence: Steering the Mind To A Desired Outcome

by James Scott | Aug 12, 2012

Wilson Bryan Key, a college professor who authored several books about subliminal messages and advertising, once said, "Subliminal perception is a subject that virtually no one wants to believe exists, and - if it does exist - they much less believe that it has any practical application." however, Key added, "The techniques are in widespread use by media, advertising and public relations agencies, industrial and commercial corporations and by the federal government itself."

Key's books were published well after James Vicary's famous claim that by incorporating subliminal messages into a movie screening, he significantly increased the sale of Coca-Cola and popcorn to theater-goers. Although Vicary later admitted the "experiment" was a hoax, the concept of subliminal influence caught on in the advertising industry. Many advertising agencies began incorporating subliminal visual stimuli in their campaigns. Such judgment- and behavior-affecting stimuli can include words or images flashed before the eyes too rapidly for the conscious mind to note them. The FCC outlawed subliminal influence in advertising in 1974, condemning the practice as unethical.

Despite the FCC decision and Key's work, not everyone was convinced that subliminal influence was real. In 1992, the University of California, Santa Cruz conducted a study in which it concluded there was no evidence supporting the contention that subliminal advertising influences consumer behavior. The CIA released a report regarding the potential of subliminal perception in 1995, indicating that the technique's practical applications were limited. In subsequent years, however, other studies have shown that subliminal influence is alive and well.

The July 2, 2010 edition of the journal Science reported that Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, had presented evidence of the power of what they referred to as "unconscious will," saying their work demonstrates that subliminal advertising techniques can work. John Bargh of Yale University called the Science paper a "landmark -- nothing like this has been in Science before. It's a large step toward overcoming the skepticism surrounding this research." Over the years, subliminal influence has been covered extensively in a variety of publications, including the Canadian Journal of Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Counseling and Development and Journal of Marketing. During the 2000 U.S. presidential race, Democratic U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and John Breaux, of Louisiana, asked the FCC to investigate the Republic party's "RATS" campaign ad. The ad, which criticized Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, displa
yed the word "RATS" briefly over the "The Gore Prescription Plan - Bureaucrats Decide."

Republic presidential candidate George Bush's campaign maintained the inclusion of "RATS" was an accident, Gore's campaign claimed it was an intentional subliminal advertisement. A number of large corporations continue to use subliminal influence as a means of promoting team spirit among employees. Susan Haley, a self-described subliminal corporate trainer, counts Clorox, Genentech, American Express, Nintendo, Wells Fargo and Frito Lay among her clients. The most common use of subliminal influence in modern society is smoking cessation. Other positive applications of subliminal influence include helping students to learn academically, helping those who have experienced traumatic events to heal psychologically and improving self-image.

As the reader knows, these studies and opinions by government sources and so called 'scholars' each have an ulterior agenda. When the government finds something that can more easily control the minds of the population they either outlaw the practice and use it or downplay it so that news readers and university administrators stop training the concept as part of their curriculum. Self-proclaimed scholars at universities lack the knowledge to practice what they teach therefore they teach because they cannot 'do'. The true talent is on the ground floor and in the trenches where both the government and university wannabe's fear to tread.

Sources: "Negative subliminal messages work," BBC News, Sept. 28, 2009; "The Operational Potential of Subliminal Perception," by Richard Gafford, CIA report, 1995; "Think Your Operating on Free Will? Think Again," by Eben Harrell, Time Magazine, July 2, 2010; "Hey, America, Check Out the Subliminal Messages Rick Santorum is Using to Scare the Crap Out of You," by Henry Blodget, Business Insider, March 25, 2012; "Do-It-Yourself Corporate Teambuilding Programs by Haley Productions Help Businesses Experience the Power of Fun," Hayley Productions; "The Ethics of Influence: An Interview With Elaina Zuker," Jan. 20, 2012; Elaina Zuker Associates blog; "Understanding Subliminal Stimuli," by Tony Greenwald, University of Washington, 1990; "Study Shows Subliminal Influences," by Dan Wiener, Yale Daily News, April 10, 2012;"'Subliminal' Advertising," by William O'Barr; "Science or Science Fiction?: Investigating the Possiblity (and Plausibility) of Subliminal Persuasion," Laboratory Ma
nual, by Nick Epley, Department of Psychology, Cornell University; "Twilight Learning: Looking Back and Forward to the Possibilities of Subliminal Messages," Science Daily, Jan. 27, 2012

About James Scott

James Scott is the CEO of Princeton Corporate Solutions, a corporate globalization and political strategies firm, PCS offers a unique blend of think tank, corporate and governmental communication strategies to expedite the facilitation of long lasting relationship building in these necessary sectors.


About Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY!” Succession Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs. She is Chief Strategist of Value Growth Institute dedicated to helping private business owners increase the value of their firms. She is the award-winning author of Show Me The Money and faculty member of American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a top small business resource by the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog.


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