By Keri Stoner
"Subliminal persuasion is a signal or message embedded in another medium, designed to pass below the normal limits of the human mind's perception. These messages are unrecognizable by the conscious mind, but in certain situations can affect the subconscious mind and can negatively or positively influence subsequent later thoughts, behaviors, actions, attitudes, belief systems and value systems" (Wikipedia). Subliminal persuasion or messages are used to make us want something without our realization. They are ads in the ads that we do not see right off or maybe even at all. These ads make us think we need it all, they manipulate our minds and make us think our lives are not as good as they could be and therefore cause us to purchase things that will make our lives "better."
Subliminal persuasion has been around and used since as early as the 1950's when Vance Packard’s book was published in 1957 called The Hidden Persuader. Although his book was about subliminal messages, he never used the word subliminal in his book. This book did not make Packard a very well respected man but it did sell a lot of copies. Although, "Packard had gotten some more respectful treatment in the last years of his life. He was the subject of a serious 1994 biography by Daniel Horowitz. And in his New Republic review of Horowitz's book, historian Jackson Lears argued that Packard 'deserves a place alongside more formidably intellectual figures in any history of twentieth-century social thought'" (Futrelle ). His book was about subliminal messaging and how they worked, although at that time most people did not understand subliminal messages were. The book put a bad taste in the majority's mouths, but people still read it. Even after his death the obituaries sounded a bit bitter when mentioning his life accomplishments.
"The American individual is subject to an average of 1500 advertisements per day, which appeal to us on an unconscious level, encouraging dissatisfaction with ourselves, and creating discontent which demands appeasement through material acquisition" (Butler, 2001). Why would anyone want to create dissatisfaction within ourselves? Well, maybe someone would want to create dissatisfaction within our minds in order to create unnecessary self esteem issues that make us think we have to have that shirt or those shoes or even that particular stomach in order to feel any self worth. It is a pretty rough world when advertisements are telling us we're not good enough.
Subliminal persuasion usually uses sexual images that the consumer does not readily realize are there. This is the advertiser's way to lure the consumer into purchasing their product. There is some belief that there are sexual subliminal images in cartoon Disney movies. What kind of society puts sexual images in children's movies? Of course there has always been the "sex sells" when it comes to beer ads but there are usually sexual subliminal images in these sexy ads. These images portray more than just a model in a swimsuit and they take some looking at to actually see. Sneaky images within ads are how they are subliminal; which means "under the threshold" (Wikipedia).
On a more positive note, subliminal persuasion can be used in a good way. Not all subliminal persuasion is used through imagery sometimes it is all about what we hear as well. Subliminal messages in audio programs are ads that have been proven very effective and are used by many psychologists to help people who want positive results. These positive subliminal messages are called "Subliminal Love Tapes." By listening to these tapes a person can learn to manage stress, relationships and even gain motivation to lose weight. "...audio programs with subliminal messages are designed to deliver positive affirmations directly to the subconscious — bypassing the conscious mind, which may reject these positive affirmations. This method is designed to allow the subconscious to more readily accept positive thoughts and images; replacing the negative thoughts and images we've held in our subconscious" (2006). This way it can block out negative thoughts that people have had possibly since their childhood and replace them with more positive thoughts.
At the beginning it was easy to see how negative subliminal persuasion can be, which it usually is. Even so, it was nice to find a way in which the persuasion was used for good as well. It is always encouraging to see something that is usually bad used for good. I liked that in searching for examples of subliminal persuasion I found an effective encouraging way that it is used to help people in their everyday lives. Although, in every advertisement it is a good idea to look beyond what is there and look for what your subconscious is picking up.
Futrelle , D. Media Circus: The Hidden Persuader. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/media/media961217.html
Butler, S. (2001, April 06). Subliminal advertising: return of the hidden persuaders. Retrieved from http://www.disinfo.com/archive/pages/dossier/id321/pg1/
(2006). Subliminal Messages in Audio Programs Experience the Benefits of Subliminal Love Tapes®. Retrieved from http://www.efflearn.com/subliminal.php