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Annie Silva LIS 620 11/22/2010 Subliminal Perception and Persuasion Scope The purpose of this paper is to give introductory knowledge to perception and persuasion without complete conscious awareness (subliminal, subconscious, or semiconscious, depending on the definition used). The following biography is meant to give information on the psychological processes involved as well as tactics used by advertisers, politicians, and musicians to reach the subject on a level that isn’t entirely conscious. Introduction Subliminal messaging is an interesting topic, and one that many people are both interested in and afraid of at the same time. People love to see pictures and hear stories of the use of subliminal messages, but don’t like the idea that something they can’t consciously perceive may have an affect on behavior. While studies have shown that conventional messages, either in music, advertising, or politics, have a greater chance of persuasion, there is a science behind the unconscious perception and its affect on attitudes and action. 75 percent of people have heard of subliminal persuasion, and 75 percent of those believe it works (Hassin 92). Many people may know what subliminal messaging is and have a vague knowledge of how it works, but the true definitions and evidence lie buried within the fields of psychology, advertising, and political science, often unavailable to the general public. What has been available to the general public, though, is the mass media attention garnered by subliminal messaging stunts and the grandiose claims of the success of subliminal messaging that are later retracted. These retractions are often not publicized.


An Issue with Definitions Many words are used to describe perception without awareness, including subliminal, unconscious, subconscious, implicit, nonconscious and subceptive, and the definitions of these terms vary from source to sources and from professional to professional (Borstein et al 8). At the very base, subliminal means below the limen. Limen is latin for threshold. So, most people gather that while subliminal messaging is messaging that happens below a threshold, which threshold that is and where it lies in human consciousness is debatable. One definition of subliminal perception is that subliminal perception is perception that passes through the objective threshold, meaning that one of the senses can pick up on it, but it doesn’t pass through the subjective threshold, meaning that a person isn’t consciously aware of it, and can’t vocally describe the subliminal phenomena. It is often questioned whether the subjective threshold is stable and concrete, or if it is different for different people in different situations. An absolute, fixed subjective threshold isn’t possible, because the subjective threshold depends on individual differences, contextual effects, and goals and needs. Subliminal perception refers to things that can’t be consciously perceived, even if attention is paid to them (Hasin et al 80). Another definition comes from Gerard J. Tellis and Jim Ambler in The Sage handbook of Advertising when they quote page 1030 of the 1996 edition of the OCED, which defines “subliminal” as “below the threshold of sensation or consciousness.” They define that as something being displayed for less than 1/10th of a second. They then define subconscious processing as advertising that can be seen or heard but that no active attention is paid to it. They then go on to define semiconscious processing as processing that takes place when advertising can be seen or heard but is processed with a low level of attention Other works continue to define these terms in slightly different ways. Therefore, it is almost impossible to know what the terms really mean and what, therefore, is technically subliminal. Lack of a clear, absolute definition may add to some of the hype about subliminal messaging. For the purpose of this paper, anything that is intended to go undetected by most viewers, meant to persuade viewers using subliminal or subconscious


methods, or things that one can only pick up on with direction, will be considered “subliminal”. Basically, it will look at the things that are generally considered “subliminal by the general public and cited as so in different resources. There are three main types of subliminal stimuli- embeds, which are most often used in animation and print advertisements where images are altered to insert words, symbols and pictures. These do occur in animated films, but most likely as a joke or a way to create attention, not to persuade someone to take particular action. The next is backmasking, used in audio, where a message is recorded backwards or are present forward but are inaudible. Finally, there is the use of precognitive stimuli, such as unperceivable video images flashed upon a screen or through a TV (Walker 3). Precognitive stimuli, or stimuli below the awareness threshold, is the more likely form for subliminal messaging via the internet, as well as embeds used the traditional way in advertisements. A Legal Note The FCC doesn’t regulate subliminals. In 1974, and FCC policy declared that using subliminal messages was “contrary to the public interest”. There is no enforcement because it is nearly impossible to define a subliminal message, so they simply issue written reprimands. Even if the FCC did regulate them, it only has authority over broadcast stations, and couldn’t charge the body that produces ads or the body that finds them (Walker 2). It also comes down to ethics. Can you place blame on someone for not recognizing a subliminal and running an ad where one exists when the goal of subliminal messaging is to go undetected? Subliminals in Politics Documented cases of subliminal messages in advertisements are few and far between. While it has long been a practice of politicians to show, in their television and print ads, a series of perceivable pictures meant to create negative associates with the competition, there is only one well-documented, well-known case of subliminal messaging in politics.


In September 2000 during the presidential race between G.W. Bush and Al Gore, Bush was accused of using less than ethical campaign advertising tactics. During a negative campaign ad the words democrats and bureaucrats appeared on the screen reappearing in different pieces and segments over the face of Al Gore. Then, the word RATS was superimposed over Al Gore’s Face for 1/30th of a second. While this doesn’t technically constitute a subliminal message because it is consciously perceivable with very close attention, many considered it “subliminal” because it presumably escaped the conscious perception of most viewers (Hasin et al 88). While the Bush Camp denies any attempt at wrongdoing, many claim that it was a direct attack against Al Gore and his prescription drug policy, as well as an effort to persuade viewers. The ad, funded by the RNC, cost $2,576,000 to air more than 4,400 times in thirty-three different markets (These numbers jump much higher in private studies). It was voluntarily pulled by the RNC after the ensuing controversy (Walker 1). It is questionable whether this was an intentional marketing ploy; some argue that it was a simple mistake, since words like bureaucrat and democrat also appear on the ad. Bush, of course, denied any intentional wrongdoing (All while consistently mispronouncing the word subliminal). The buzz faded quickly, and after a week of media attention, interest faded. This shows the contrast in the subliminal craze from the mid 20th century compared to recent attitudes. While it has been shown that these types of perception can affect attitude, it hasn’t been shown that these types of advertisements directly affect behavior, or that they are strong enough to reverse strong positive or negative opinions. Subliminals in Advertising and Marketing Advertising and marketing exist to sell. And in the cutthroat world of a free market and competition, companies will often use less than ethical means to gain loyal customers. Consumer psychology is a well-documented subject, one well known and studied by those in the advertising field. In essence, nothing advertisers do, and nothing their advertisements contain, are accidental. While some things that are perceived to be subliminal are just a coincidence, these things tend to be mistakes by the advertising company.


Vargas and Yoon, in their entry entitled “ Advertising Psychology” in the Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology define advertising as “A paid, mass mediated attempt to inform and persuade.” They define perception as the “recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli” and subliminal advertising as “an attempt to advertise without the awareness of the message recipient.” The use of subliminal messages in advertising has been a topic of debate since James Vicary imbedded the messages “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat Popcorn” every five seconds for 1/30th of a second in the movie picnic. He claimed that coke sales increased by 58 percent and popcorn by 18 percent (Walker 2). He used a machine called a tachistoscope to flash the words on the screen, and presented this information at a press conference in New York City. This garnered attention from the general public, professionals in the fields of psychology and marketing, and the mass media. His findings were found to be grossly exaggerated when the New Jersey theater manager didn’t report a jump in sales. Vicary, while often questioned, was a successful businessman and social scientist, and went on to offer his services through his company The Subliminal Projection Corporation (Bullock 8-10). One of the reasons the Vicary situation caused such a stir and a “buzz” around the subliminal is because his original claim was big news and reached many, but his retraction only reached those within the academic sphere (Hasin et al 92). The belief in the subliminal by the mass population is also due in part because of larger than life, yet unsubstantiated claims, and examples are often cited in mass media outlets, while the scientific research dispelling the myths and limitations of subliminal messaging are often only mentioned in the scientific community, and the general public doesn’t always have access to the journals which publish findings of the subject based in fact. Martin Lindstrom, in his article titled “How Subliminal Advertising Works” cites several marketing techniques that companies use to unconsciously affect buyer choices. For example, its been noticed that when it comes to things like remote controls, mp3 players and cell phones, the heavier of the choices is often favored, even if the options are comparable in dimensions. Weightiness gives the impression of sturdiness and substantiality, while the light products are often thought of as cheaply made, prone to breakage, and generally not of as good of quality of their heavier counterparts. Therefore,


companies sometimes weigh down their products with random pieces of aluminum to pull off the preferred heavy effect. Martin also comments that fast-paced music makes shoppers go faster and buy less, but music with a tempo slower than a human heartbeat makes shoppers slow down and therefore buy more. Stores implement this as a key marketing scheme. Customers also have sometimes-unconscious opinions about where a product comes from. Given the option of two identical looking and smelling perfumes, except that one is made in Dallas and the other in Paris, most consumers would chose and purchase the one made in a place more known for it’s expense, it’s fashion and it’s perfumes. More recently, companies are encrypting images into advertisements in order to reach a certain population while trying not to alienate the general public. For example, companies who want to reach the gay community and show they welcome consumers who identify themselves as LGBTQA will often use symbols in their advertisements that may only be meaningful to that specific community. Examples of this include Subaru using the Equal Rights Campaign equals symbol on the bumper of a car in a billboard, Coors Light featuring pink triangles in their commercials, Miller Light using a rainbow colored glass in their advertisements, and Visa using a rainbow colored credit card (Kanner 179). Wilson Bryan Key, often known for studying and “outing” advertisers who use subliminal messages created a stir when exposing Camel cigarettes and Gibley Gin and their use of sexual references in a subliminal context. In many print advertisements and animated films, subliminal images of a sexual nature have been embedded; going with the theory that sex sells. While many of the print advertisements are sexual in nature anyway, many of the embedded images contain phallic symbols and words that wouldn’t be accepted by the general public if they were easily perceived. These print ads often contain ambiguously sexual phrases and often occur in ads for alcohol, tobacco, trucks, and on the covers of popular magazines.


The Use of Subliminals in Self-Help Many companies have capitalized on the subliminal message craze as a way to sell self-help audiotapes. These tapes included subliminal messages that were meant to help users lose weight, gain self-esteem, fight depression, and improve memory. In 1991 a study was done by Greenwald, Spangenberg, Pratkanis and Eskenazi where the labels were switched on some of the tapes. After the participants used the tapes for one month, all that was found was the placebo effect. Even on the tapes with switched labels, the participants reported the labeled results because that’s what they wanted to see. There were other tests being done on the legitimacy of self-help tapes, and they all came to the same conclusion. When it comes to self-help, subliminal visual stimuli may be more effective than auditory stimuli because of the difference in the capacity for processing visual versus auditory stimuli. Recently, devices have been developed to send visual subliminal stimuli through a television while watching any programming available on TV. These products promise to help a person lose weight, gain confidence, or reduce stress all while watching a football game or a favorite sit-com. One such product, made by a company called Motivision, displays whole sentences as the subliminal stimuli, and research shows that it is most effective with only a single word. The human brain can pick up on just bits and pieces of the sentence. Husin et al. gives the example of the sentence “do not eat much.” The brain can easily pick up on “eat” and “eat much”, resulting in unwanted effects, and can just as easily pick up the meaningless “do not”. In order for the intended subliminal stimuli to have even a chance at effectiveness, the participant must perceive unconsciously the entire sentence (98). Subliminal Messages in Music Putting backwards messages in songs is often known as backmasking or backwards masking, as well as backwording. This can be done two ways: by recording separate tracks and then putting them in reverse on the final copy, or by arranging and slurring speech in forward so they make a meaningful phrase in reverse as well. While there have been recent examples of backwording, such as Marilyn Manson, the most


controversial and most often cited examples come from rock music in the mid-late 20th century, when the subliminal messaging buzz was at it’s peak. The first well-known case is on the Beatles’ 1968 White Album, which came out at the height of the subliminal messaging craze. In the song, “Revolution Number Nine” a voice is heard repeating the phrase “number nine, number nine…” In revere this sounds like “turn me on, deadm’n…” Some people feel that this is purely coincidental; others believe that it was meant to play on the spoof that Paul McCartney had died. There is another example on the same album between the songs “I’m So Tired” and “Blackbird, where it sounds like “ Paul is a deadm’n—miss him, miss him. When listened to forward, one cannot make out what the person says. Much of the mid-20th century subliminal messages in music revolve around Aleister Crowley, a master magician and master of occult arts. He published his theory of being able to learn to think backward by reading, walking and listening to albums in reverse in 1929. His photo is on the Blizzards of Oz Album by Ozzy Osborne. Crowely had a lover named Laylah. Eric clapton has a recording entitled L.A.Y.L.A, and the cover art bears a resemblance to Crowley’s Laylah. Clapton belonged to the British rock band the Yardbirds in the 1960’s with Jimmy Page. Jimmy Page then became a member of Led Zeppelin, and in 1970, moved into Crowley’s former house in the UK, where the band spent a lot of time writing music. It is unclear weather these bands used subliminal messages because they were devout followers of Crowley or because they were simply exercising their artistic freedom. It may also have been done as a publicity stunt to raise popularity and album sales. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin is one of the most requested rock songs of all time and one of the most used examples of backmasking. When played in reverse, it is possible to make out the phrases “So here’s to my sweet Satan”, and “Whose power is Satan.” None of these phrases are easily identified in recordings of live performances, making the argument that they were intentionally calculated and practiced for the recording studio. Reverend Joel Landis came out and said that the band was trying to plant evil and satanic messages within the minds of the people, while others argue that the band was


trying to show that the world is full of opposites, that a stairway to heaven could just as easily be a stairway to hell. “Eldorado”, by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) is another commonly cited example and often criticized harshly to be satanic. Many say that the following phrases can be heard when the song is played backwards: For you're the nasty one Serve me yet D'ya serve me? Goodbye, Christ is dead—many after Everyone who has mark will live The Styx, Black Oak Arkansas, Queen, and the British band Klaatu are all said to have used subliminal messages in their work as well (Walker 1-11). The heavy metal band Judas Priest found itself at the heart of an unsuccessful lawsuit with claims that the phrase “do it” backmasked in their song “Better by You Better Than Me” encouraged the suicide of two teens in from Nevada in 1985. While there is evidence that subliminal messages occur in popular music, there isn’t sufficient evidence that it alters a person’s beliefs or causes them to take action that they normally wouldn’t. Muc bh of the music in which backmasing occurs, or other music by the same bands, more blatantly discuss “satanic” and “evil” within the forward playing music. If these bands were trying to campaign for Satanism and evil deeds, the forward music with easily understandable lyrics would be more influential. A study done recently by Hauke Egermann, Reinhard Kopiez and Christoph Reuter showed that subliminal messages in music do not have an effect on choice behavior. Conclusion One of the problems, it seems, with research and the subliminal is that many experiments of the same nature all garner the same negative results, but it has been hard to replicate experiments where subliminal messaging is shown to have some sort of concrete influence. Another problem with conducting scientific studies of the affects of subliminals is that it is hard to replicate the situations that one might be in when exposed to subliminal stimuli. Things such as social situations, background noise, peer influence,


and the physical state of the participants all vary greatly in “real world” situations and are hard to replicate within a lab setting. Many advertising companies and politicians shy away from using blatantly subliminal messages because of a lack of public license. Generally, consumers don’t like being tricked. It’s different with self-help; the users are generally hoping that the subliminal messages are there and are able to have an affect. The most likely reason for subliminals in music and films is for artistic satisfaction and to garner attention. Another issue is that while it is evident in some cases that subliminal messages exist, people are so interested in the subject they start to see subliminal messages that aren’t there, at least not intentionally. And because it generally creates negative attitudes, especially in advertising, most entities won’t admit to their use. So, it is very much possible that much what some people see as subliminal messaging is in fact just coincidental. Subliminal messaging is a topic that many people are interested in and feel strongly about, but because of issues with definitions and restrictions in the effectiveness of research, it is also a topic that is hard to understand. While there are subliminal messages that seem to be harmless, in existence for entertainment, humor, or to create attention, the issue comes down to weather subliminal messaging can change attitudes and behavior without the knowledge of the subject. Library of Congress Classifications BF 309-499 Psychology—Conciousness, Cognition Gives resources on the levels of consciousness to help understand the topic from a psychological perspective. BF 608-635 Psychology—Will. Violation. Choice. Control. Resources found here are helpful when understanding persuasion. HF5801-6182 Social Sciences—Advertising Resources are available here about advertising, advertising psychology and subliminal advertising. HF 5410-5417.5 Social Sciences—Marketing. Distribution of products.


Includes works on the psychology of consumers and the tactics behind markets, including subliminal ones. JK 1717-2217 Political Science—Political rights. Practical politics. Information on the use of subliminal messages in politics. ML 3800-3923 Music—Philosophical and societal aspects of music. Physics and Acoustics of music. Psychological aspects of music. This is where information on subliminal messages in music would be located. Dewey Classification 150- Psychology 320- Political Science 380- Commerce, Communications, Transport Subject Headings (a condensed list of the most useful) Psychology - Clinical Psychology Psychology - Cognitive Psychology Psychology - General Subliminal perception Preconscious processing Subliminal Stimulus Awareness threshold Recognition Threshold Neuromarketing Backwording Backmasking Subliminal Subliminal advertising Subliminal music Subliminal messages Advertising Psychology


Publishers While conducting research, there weren’t any overlapping publishers who routinely publish on this topic. Many of the university presses from schools with a wellknown psychology department publish books and articles. The “big name” academic publishers such as Sage also publish books on psychology, advertising, and politics. Journals American Behavioral Scientist American Journal of Psychology American Psychologist Applied Behavioral Science Review Consumption, Markets, and Culture Advertising Age Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis Popular Political Psychology music and society Political Psychology Public Integrity


The entries in this bibliography are organized by general topic and then are listed from the general to the more specific. PSYCHOLOGY The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. London: Penguin, 2009. s.v. "subliminal," http://www.credoreference.com/entry/penguinpsyc/subliminal (accessed November 14, 2010). Definition of Subliminal- “Lit., below the LIMEN, below the absolute THRESHOLD (1, 2). Note that the term, particularly in the phrase subliminal perception, is used in two distinct ways, often without distinguishing which meaning is intended. For example, some call a stimulus subliminal if it is so weak that it cannot be detected at all: others use the term to describe stimuli that can be detected but are too weak for the perceiver to be able to determine their identity. Needless to say these two meanings are very different and refer to very different stimulus intensities. See also SUBLIMINAL *PERCEPTION, SUBCEPTION and THRESHOLD (esp. 1 and 2) for further discussion of usage.” Limen is Latin for threshold. The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. London: Penguin, 2009. s.v. "perception, subliminal." Definition given on subliminal perception: “A curious phrase since subliminal means below the threshold for perception. The term actually refers not to PERCEPTION in the usual sense of that term (meaning 1), but to the effect of a belowthreshold stimulus upon an individual's behavior. There has been considerable scientific debate over the reliability and/or validity of the effects of subliminal stimuli, and extensive discussion of the ethical issues raised by even the possibility that such effects might be real and thus be used by unscrupulous advertisers or politicians. There are


reliable effects here (see PERCEPTUAL DEFENCE, PERCEPTUAL VIGILANCE, SUBCEPTION), but they are small and there is no evidence that they can be used to modify attitudes or emotions.” This source gives basic and brief definitive and descriptive entries. Hassin, Ran R., James S. Uleman. John A. Bargh, eds. 2005. The New Unconscious. Dijksterhuis, Ap, Henk Aarts, and Pamela K. Smith. “The Power of the Subliminal: On Subliminal Persuasion and Other Potential Applications.” Oxford University Press. In chapter four of The New Unconscious, titled “The Power of the Subliminal: On Subliminal Persuasion and Other Potential Applications,” It gives background information on the topic, defines issues and give examples. It is one of few works that include a section on the use of subliminal messaging as a form of self-help. The chapter concludes with “Three Good Reasons For Investigating Subliminal Phenomena” and an extensive biography. Zelazo, Philip David, Morris Moscovitch, and Evan Thompson, eds. 2007. The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. New York: Cambridge University Press. This reference resource, published by Cambridge, is a compilation of articles written by professionals in varying professional fields all on the subject of consciousness. It is indexed by author and by subject. Bernstein, Douglas A, and Peggy W. Walsh. 2006. Essentials of Psychology. 4th ed. Cegage Learning. Often used as a Psychology textbook, Essentials of Psychology offers introductory information and synopses of related studies from a psychological perspective. It’s organized with headings in the form of questions that try and mimic the thought process of the user. Information about subliminal messages is in chapter 4, which is about consciousness. It starts on page 139 and continues to 142. This source is


useful because of the clear, basic information given and because the studies and examples mentioned make good search terms that lead to other information on the subject. Bornstein, Robert F. and Thane S. Pittman, eds. 1992. Perception without Awareness: Cognitive, Clinical and Social Perspectives. New York: Guilford Press. This source contains valuable bibliographic references to other pertinent information. It is a compilation made of three chapters all contributed by researchers, professionals and scholars in their field. The chapters are titled “The Cognitive Perspective”, The Clinical Perspective”, and “The Social Perspective”.

While many

sources attempt to argue that subliminal perception doesn’t exist, this one attempts to give evidence that it does. While it does validate the phenomenon of subliminal perception, it doesn’t directly support the idea of subliminal persuasion often mentioned in other subliminal messaging text. Handleman, Sapir. 2009. Thought Manipulation: the Use and Abuse of Psychological Trickery. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. Handleman gives an overview of thought manipulation tactics and how it works (or doesn’t) psychologically. He includes a section on the freedom of choice and ethics of manipulation. He focuses on manipulation in advertising, politics, leadership and therapy. The text offers a broad overview of the topic to help someone interested in the subject gain some background knowledge on the subject. It is also one of the few academic texts that talk about thought manipulation and subliminal messages in the therapeutic field. ADVERTISING Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Oxford: Elsevier Science & Technology, 2004. s.v. "Advertising Psychology,"


A brief entry describing the psychology of advertising and the intended affects of advertising. A broad overview useful for anyone new to the subject or looking for basic information. This may help when reading further into the subject in other texts. Saegert, Joel.. "Advertising, Subliminal." Encyclopedia of Communication and Information. Ed. Jorge Reina Schement. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. 8-10. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. A very brief and basic description of subliminal advertising. It gives a brief history of the subject. Instead of focusing on the psychology of the viewer like the Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology entry, it gives an overview of the absence of evidence, the absence of a systematic framework, and an absence of public license. It focuses on the shortcomings of subliminal advertising. Tellis, Gerard J. and Tim Ambler, eds. 2007. The Sage Handbook of Advertising. Los Angeles: SAGE publications. This text is included because of the definitions and distinctions made on page 97. It makes the distinction between subliminal, or that which is below the awareness threshold, and the subconscious, which is capable of being perceived but not actual attention is paid to it. The subconscious is often mislabeled for subliminal in still advertisements in print. Sheehan, Kim Bartel. 2004. Controversies in Contemporary Advertising. California: Sage Publications. Taking a look at controversies and myths in modern advertising, Sheehan discusses subliminal advertising in chapter 5, entitled “Beyond Subliminal.� The discussion is in the same chapter as product placement in movies, TV, and other media. This shows the connection between subliminal advertising aimed at the subconscious and product placement as a source of advertising. While the name brand product seems


coincidental in media that isn’t a direct advertising or marketing ploy, it still affects the way people perceive brands and may change buying patterns. This can be considered the next step up from subliminal advertising. Sheehan also cites examples of subliminal Advertising and works deny its validity. Alwitt, Linda F. and Andrew A. Mitchell, eds. 1985. Psychological Processes and Advertising Effects: Theory, Research and Applications. A compilation of contributions of many professionals of psychology and advertising and marketing. Psychological Processes and Advertising Effects gives an overview of marketing strategies and how the consumer reacts to them. It’s a valuable text for anyone who wishes to understand how advertising works to change or form habits of a consumer and the psychological processes that take place. Each section has a bibliography and the text is indexed by subject and author. This book brings together professionals on both sides of the process to shed light on the advertising process from start to finish from a psychological standpoint. Sutherland, Max and Alice K. Sylvester. 2009. Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why. 3rd Ed.. Allen and Unwin. Describing advertising techniques and how they influence people and their purchasing decisions, this book gives a good overview and a basic understanding of how advertising affects buyer psychology. In Chapter three, titled “Subliminal Advertising: The Biggest Myth of All”, the authors make the distinction between subtlety in advertising and subliminal advertising. The book goes on to give examples of and the story behind subliminal advertising and debunks some of the myths. This book provides a basic understanding of advertising and how it affects people, while specifically looking in depth at subliminal advertising. Because the authors use simple language, define terms clearly, and strategically use illustrations and tables to help show key points, this source is easily accessible to people interested in the topic of subliminal advertising, but don’t have an advertising or marketing background.


Lindstrom, Martin. 2009. “How Subliminal Advertising Works.” Parade online. http://www.parade.com/news/2009/01/how-subliminal-advertising-works.html. Accessed 10/18/2010 This recent article makes the note that subliminal advertising is considered a deceptive business practice by the FTC, something not mentioned elsewhere. It also goes on to describe how subliminal advertising still happens and gives real-life examples outside of the realm of research studies. It “outs” some of the marketing techniques used to play off of subconscious opinions and beliefs. Lawrence, Samuel R. 2010. Freud on Madison Avenue: Motivation Research and Subliminal Advertising in America. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvanian Press. A complete, in depth history of advertising, persuasion, and subliminal advertising. It starts in 1930 Vienna and continues into the early 2000s. Lawrence is a skeptic, and argues that even if subliminal messages in advertising were successful, the results and success would have already been surpassed by new tactics developed with the use of new technology, and would now be considered outdated. He argues that new methods render greater results than subliminal advertising ever would have. It has an extensive biography and “connects the dots” of the history of subliminal advertising, while many other sources only mention the major players. Kanner, Bernice. 2004. Pocketbook Power: How to Reach the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Most Coveted Consumers—women. New York: McGraw-Hill. This book, which looks at advertising techniques geared towards women, talks about subliminal advertising in hidden images and looks specifically at subliminal


messages geared toward the gay community. Companies use certain symbols to advertise to the LGBTQIA community and to communicate friendliness. These symbols are often unnoticeable to those who aren’t a part of the targeted community. McGrane, Bernard. 1992. The Ad and the ID: Sex, Death, and Subliminal Advertising. Produced and directed by Harold Boihem. Berkely, California: University of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning. This video, used for education purposes, looks at sex and death images embedded in seemingly unrelated advertising images. It looks at the effects this has on consumers and also takes a look at subliminal messages in advertising in general. It doesn’t argue for or against the results of subliminal advertising, instead focusing on how it is used. Bullock, August. 2004. The Secret Sales Pitch: an Overview of Subliminal Advertising. San Jose, California: Norwich Publishers. While a lot of sources about subliminal messaging look at it from a perspective of it’s shortcomings and myths, this book gives unbiased examples and even gives how-to advice. It claims that in order to work on the subconscious level subliminal messages must provoke strong emotions, unlike some of the failed experiments of the past. It has a lot of graphics and examples of subliminal images in advertising and print. It focuses on embedded images and argues that they are not “accidental” like companies sometimes claim. Offers a brief history of the subject and extensive biography. MUSIC Egermann, Hauke, Reinhard Kopiez, and Christoph Reuter. 2006. "Is there an effect of subliminal messages in music on choice behavior?" Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis 4, no. 2: 29-45. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2010).


This article describes a research study in which text messages are subliminally added to pop music. The participants listen to the music and then are asked to choose a word fro ma list of 10 and choose which type of drink they would like. The control listened to the same music without subliminal text added. There was no meaningful difference between choices of the participants and the control group. The study was then conducted on children and the results were the same. While there are myths and even some proof of subliminal messages being added to music, this study aims to disprove the ability of imbedded text to persuade. Walker, Michael (Author). 1985. "Backward messages in commercially available recordings." Popular music and society 10, no. 1: 2. RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2010) This article discusses the ways subliminal messages are embedded backwards into rock music, including in songs by the Beatles and Led Zeplin. It gives the history behind these songs and the connections between them. It explains the examples phonetically and how the auditory process perceives them. It argues that these messages most likely exist for fun, for the “buzz”, or for artistic purposes because research has failed to show that these messages have any persuasion power. It also makes the point that music often talks about the subjects of the backwards messages blatantly in their forward lyrics. POLITICS Nimmo, Dan and James E. Combs. 1980. Subliminal Politics: Myths and Mythmakers in America. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Nimmo and Combs looks at the assumptions and beliefs that lie in our subconscious about politics and political myths. It also looks at the major players in political myths and how (or if) they are successful in creating believes in our subconscious using those myths. They emphasize two points: that myths aren’t always false, they can be true, false or somewhere in the middle, but the common denominator is


that they are believed. The next major point is who the mythmakers are, and that all people involved in politics are mythmakers to a certain extent. While the book isn’t about subliminal messages in it’s entirety, it has useful passages and also gives a good understanding of why politicians may use subliminal messaging as a means to either create a buzz or really try and subliminally change perceptions. Weinberger, Joel, and Drew Westen. 2008. "RATS, We Should Have Used Clinton: Subliminal Priming in Political Campaigns." Political Psychology 29, no. 5: 631651. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed November 11, 2010). Weinberger and Westen give a brief overview of the history of the study of subliminal messaging and include summaries of major studies. They focus on the use of subliminal messaging in the political sphere. The title is allusion to the use of the word “rats” subliminally in a GOP advertisement. This article is included mainly because it discusses the use of subliminal messaging and perception over the internet and because of its extensive bibliography. Stewart, Patrick A. 2008. "Subliminals in the 2000 Presidential Election." Public Integrity 10, no. 3: 215-231. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2010). This article looks at the 2000 presidential election campaign, where the Bush camp used the word “rats” in a negative commercial about Gore and his prescription drug plan. It looks at other political ad and studies the research of the ad that has been done, including information about it’s success and audience. It also goes into the motives and goals of the creators of the ad. OTHER 2008 “Real Subliminal”. The Official Subliminal Messaging Blog. Wordpress. http://www.subliminal-messaging.com/


This blog’s main intention is to make money by selling subliminal self-help tools. It is good research behind the subliminal “craze” and to see what there is on the market in this category. Under the “Fun and Games” link there are a lot of examples of subliminal messages in advertising, movies, music, etc.

Subliminal Advertising Pathfinder  

Annie Silva LIS 620 11/22/2010 Dewey Classification 150- Psychology 320- Political Science 380- Commerce, Communications, Transport Journals...

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