Archive for August, 2009

Subliminal Music works?

The question a lot of people ask is – does subliminal music really work? And does the subconscious mind really detect visuals and sounds below the conscious threshold? Lets take a look at what history tells us first. In 1957, in a Ft Lee, New Jersey movie theatre, a man named James Vicary placed a tachistoscope in the theater’s projection booth. All throughout the playing of the film “Picnic”, he flashed a couple of different messages on the screen every five seconds. The messages flashed lasted a total of 1/3000th of a second – something you would not notice with the naked eye. The messages he used were: “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Hungry? Eat Popcorn”. The results were simply amazing – an increase in popcorn sales by a margin of 57.8% and an increase in Coca-Cola sales by 18.1%. The use of subliminal messages from there only lasted 17 more years, before the Federal Communications Commission banned subliminal advertising from radio and television airwaves in 1974. The reason the FCC banned subliminal messages? It worked too effectively against the will of the person receiving the subliminal messages. This was the first documentation that the subconscious mind picked up subliminal messages that the conscious mind did not, which led to more studies that the subconscious mind received subliminal sounds much like it did subliminal visuals. Today, subliminal advertising is once again legal after researchers found that the brain would reject subliminal messages that were negative.

In 2007, researchers in London concluded that positive subliminal messages were clinically proven to be effective based on their human brain experiments.
University College London researchers have found the first physiological evidence that invisible subliminal images do attract the brain’s attention on a subconscious level. The wider implication for the study, published in Current Biology, is that techniques such as subliminal advertising, now banned in the UK but still legal in the USA, certainly do leave their mark on the brain.

Using fMRI, the study looked at whether an image you aren’t aware of ¬– but one that reaches the retina — has an impact on brain activity in the primary visual cortex, part of the occipital lobe. Subjects’ brains did respond to the object even when they were not conscious of having seen it.

Dr Bahador Bahrami, of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and the UCL Department of Psychology, said: “What’s interesting here is that your brain does log things that you aren’t even aware of and can’t ever become aware of. We show that there is a brain response in the primary visual cortex to subliminal images that attract our attention — without us having the impression of having seen anything. These findings point to the sort of impact that subliminal advertising may have on the brain. What our study doesn’t address is whether this would then influence you to go out and buy a product. I believe that it’s likely that subliminal advertising may affect our decisions — but that is just speculation at this point.”

Subjects wore red-blue filter glasses that projected faint pictures of everyday objects (such as pliers and an iron) to one eye and a strong flashing image known as ‘continuous flash suppression’ to the other. This recently developed technique effectively erases subjects’ awareness of the faint images so that they were unable to localize the faint images on screen. At the same time, subjects performed either an easy task — picking out the letter T from a stream of letters, or a task that required more concentration in which subjects had to pick out the white N or blue Z from the same stream.

During the harder task, the subjects’ brains blocked out the subliminal image and the fMRI scan did not detect any associated neural activity. This finding — that the brain does not pick up on subliminal stimuli if it is too busily occupied with other things — shows that some degree of attention is needed for even the subconscious to pick up on subliminal images.

Dr Bahrami said: “This is exciting research for the scientific community because it challenges previous thinking — that what is subconscious is also automatic, effortless and unaffected by attention. This research shows that when your brain doesn’t have the capacity to pay attention to an image, even images that act on our subconscious simply do not get registered.”

The research challenges the theory of the pioneering American psychologist and philosopher, William James, (1842–1910), who said: “We are conscious of what we attend to — and not conscious of what we do not attend to”.

The team’s findings show that there are situations where consciousness and attention don’t go hand in hand. This was recent data record in 2007.

There is documented evidence that was previously concluded by E. R. Spangenberg and his colleagues during double blind studies with subliminal music instead of visual subliminal messages. Spangenberg knew that the subconscious mind was able to accept subliminal messages through visuals and was skeptical if the other senses were able to pick up on them as well. His study happened to deal with one of the most powerful senses the subconscious mind picks up information through, the sense of hearing. His research and skeptisism about subliminal music showed that audio embedded with subliminal suggestions did affect the human brain afterall.


I am under the impression that subliminal music does work because of the fact that senses of the human brain such as hearing and seeing do pick up on subliminal messages. There was a scene from a Justice League Unlimited Cartoon one time where The Question was being interrogated. He was muttering something about secret messages encoded in amino acid chains in carb-free breakfast bars. Perhaps there is the realm of possibility that taste can pick up on subliminal messages also? Feel free to discuss on this hypothesis of subliminal messages and taste.


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