|Some dare call it
|What THEY don't want
you to know!
Subliminal messages are images, sounds, or pieces of text which are worked into various media and, in theory, are picked up by the unconscious mind of the viewer or listener, but not their conscious mind. They can come in several forms: images or text which flash up briefly on a film or TV broadcast, too quickly to be registered consciously; symbols worked into images; backward masking, and so forth. Donate to RationalWiki
Early research into the phenomenon was performed by James Vicary, who claimed to have inserted examples of subliminal advertising (a term he coined) into a film called Picnic. Messages telling audiences to buy Coca-Cola and popcorn flashed up onscreen every five seconds, each lasting only 1/3000 of a second and so unnoticed by the conscious minds of the audiences.
According to Vicary, Coca-Cola sales went up by 18.1% as a result of this, while popcorn sales went up by 57.8%. However, he was subsequently challenged to repeat the experiment; he did so and there was no such increase in sales. He eventually admitted to falsifying the data the first time.
More recent research They all must die has actually shown that there is a (very) tiny grain of truth in ideas about subliminal messages. The use of a technique called "flash suppression" can unconsciously prime an image in subjects. However, the effect is very temporary and does not bear any resemblance to the claimed Satanic messages on "Stairway to Heaven", "Hotel California", and the Spanish novelty dance song "Asereje" by
one-hit wonder girl group Las Ketchup, whose gibberish lyrics (which are nothing more than a corruption of the seminal hip-hop song "Rapper's Delight") were misinterpreted as alluding to satanic rituals; the song, according to the group, was about a young man named Diego who requested "Rapper's Delight" to his DJ friend, but as he couldn't remember the name, he sang the chorus phonetically, hence the Spanish gibberish. This is also different from instances of criminal court judges referring to a defendant as "Mr. Guilty."
The US Federal Trade Commission states in an FAQ on its website: "It would be deceptive for marketers to embed ads with so-called subliminal messages that could affect consumer behavior. However, most consumer behavior experts have concluded that such methods aren’t effective." No source is given. It is unclear if the FTC is looking for or enforcing any prohibition of subliminal messages in advertising. Subliminal advertising has been banned in advertising in the UK and Australia since 1958.
Honestly though, the notion that you have subconsciously read every piece of text that has ever entered your field of vision, no matter how briefly, and that it has influenced you is kind of funny. Wanna read a book? Just lay out all the pages in front of you and look at it for a second.
- Flash Suppression, Scholarpedia
- The Hidden Meaning Behind The Ketchup Song (Asereje) by Las Ketchup
- Subliminal Advertising: What You Need to Know (11 Feb 21) Audio Network.