Monday, August 2, 2021

Class Post #2: Subliminal Messaging in Advertisements and Subliminal Self-Help

                     Subliminal messages are defined as, “a signal or message designed to pass below (sub) the normal limits of perception,” (“Subliminal Advertising,”, and are typically not seen with the naked eye, or easily perceived from the conscious mind. However, through subliminal messages, advertisers can potentially get through to the unconscious and subconscious minds of those who are viewing of observing the advertisement. Historically, there were a few experiments conducted to determine whether people were affected by subliminal messages in ads, and an American journalist by the name of Vance Packard wrote in The Hidden Persuaders about how movie theatergoers were more influenced to buy popcorn and Coca-Cola after watching the advertisements that indirectly encouraged them to do so. However, this experiment was later debunked by James Vicary, another author who claimed that the experiment was basically a sham, and there was no perceived direct influence on the group of individuals in the movie theater solely through subliminal message. It is also very hard to prove whether or not someone can be directly affected by subliminal messages based off of observation alone. 

                        Due to the nature of these experiments, the FCC proposed that subliminal messaging in advertisements be banned from television and radio broadcasting in the year of 1974. Although this would not necessarily stop a company from utilizing subliminal messaging for the sake of capital gain and encouraging individual consumers to dine at their establishments or buy their products, but when it comes to the denial of an individual’s free will to make choices for themselves, subliminal messaging cannot be implemented in this manner as it is against the law to do so. One thing I do find very interesting about the utilization of subliminal messaging is the concept of subliminal self-help. Subliminal self-help began in 1987 as a way for individuals to come to terms with needing some assistance in their lives, and that may include mental health struggles, self-esteem issues, weight issues, memory retention, and management of their anger issues. Despite the original intentions of the self-help tapes, several exhaustive research studies have concluded that these audio tapes had little to no effect on listeners. The goal was for a listener to feel an illusionary placebo effect that would encourage them to achieve their goals, but instead, there was not even enough proof to determine whether these tapes initiated the placebo effect, and it was exceedingly harder to determine if any changes, substantial or not, were a result of the tapes. It is very interesting how the mind can detect whether or not it is being deceived, even if there is no awareness of deception consciously, and the fact that subliminal messaging only really “works” to the extent that is just outside of the observable frame the human brain can reach. There is no way to know if subliminal messages can inherently decide what one chooses to do, buy, or even if it affects our ways of thinking; but some objects, events, or instances are more impactful depending on how often someone is interacting with them or passing by them in their day-to-day lives, and one can consciously make an association between that item and a message that their brains may be attempting to decode. I find this really fascinating, too, and it gets me thinking about how often the unconscious and subconscious mind work to recollect and recover memories of things we are used to seeing over and over again.

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