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Subliminal perception


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Is there really anything to subliminal perception or influence? Many books have been written to warn us of subliminal advertising and influence. Many exhort grand claims that it is used to influence what we buy, drink, eat and more. Can there be any truth to it? Does the average person have subliminal perception. If so, could there be positive uses for it like education? I'm quite skeptical of it myself. What do you think?

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Many retail stores that play music, (such as Walmart) have subliminal messages hidden in the background of the songs. Repeated phrases over and over like "don't steal""don't steal""don't steal" have caused shoplifting rates to decrease a certain percentage. Humans do have subliminal perception, and it works to some extent.

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Walk into a fast food restaurant. The colors are mostly oranges, and reds. The floor is most likely a dark red. The walls have two colors a dark color on bottom, and a lighter color on top. Sit down in a chair, and you will notice that the darker color goes up the wall until a little higher than your elbow while sitting. You will also notice that the chair isn't very comfortable. Not uncomfortable, but you wouldn't want to sit in it all day. The air is probably a bit uncomfortably cold.

 

Reds and oranges have been shown to make people hungrier. Light colors tell people that a place is cleaner, but elbow markings show up on light colors, hence the darker color. The chairs are comfortable enough for you to eat there, but not to lounge there beyond necessary - ditto with the air temperature.

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Those all seem pretty, well, obvious... I'm curious about the validity of the 14 year old who listens to harsh music, plays Grand Theft Auto, listens to <insert angry band here>, and rages against the machine by levelling his homeroom class with an assault rifle. Is there any science to his claim that subliminal messages made him do it? Personally, I tend to support the idea of personal responsibility, but that would imply free will, which is already another thread over in Philosophy. If this person is simply acting out the effect of his environment (whatever outside stimuli - not just the items in this post), why don't others in the same environment do the same thing?

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I think we have a couple of different ideas floating about here all under the guise of subliminal messages. Subliminal is defined:

 

1. Below the threshold of conscious perception. Used of stimuli.

2. Inadequate to produce conscious awareness but able to evoke a response: subliminal propaganda.

 

So by definition subliminal mssages are not perceptable. There are certain colors, sounds, etc. that can evoke feelings in many people and these are often used in concert with the goals of the store. This falls in line with the second defintion.

 

As for music/videogames/media etc., I do not think it really promotes these actions but has made the observer more desensitised to them. Oh, well just another school shooting, etc. We seem so over whelmed with negative images that we seem to be less atune to what is actually going on around us, until it reaches the level of noteworthy. I.E. the level that works under our perception is growing. We no longer tend to notice the loner walking down the street. 50 years ago, many small towns would call the cops on vagrants. We tend to ignore these things now. The individual has become more isolationist with its direct surroundings.

 

Ther have been no studies that indicated visual or auditory subliminal message really work as far as I know. They actually tried to use subliminal message to get the BTK killer to confess in the 80's. There have been a few cases against rock bands accused of having subliminal messages(Judas Priest) but they were found to be merritless. Much of what others read as subliminal is just a random bit of image that they interpret in such a way. In The Clam-Plate Orgy and Other Subliminals the Media use to Manipulate Your Behavior by Dr. Wilson Bryan Key, he thought that the dots on a Ritz cracker spelled sex. (http://www.uiowa.edu/~commstud/adclass/craig/clamplate.htm).

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while carefully examining a Howard Johnson’s menu, he saw that a plate of clams pictured on the menu was actually the portrayal of a sexual orgy, which included various people and a donkey :) . Key suggested that this is only the tip of the iceberg of a subliminal conspiracy of major proportions.

I find it truly amazing what one seriously motivated donkey can accomplish :eek: .

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Check out the ice on the front of soda machines sometimes (those big, close up ice cubes). I'm pretty sure there's at least one curvy woman hidden in each machine picture... :eek:

 

Does that really work though? If it did would it make more women or less women buy a coke?

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I don't know if it would work... probably, based on the fact that Victoria's Secret uses nearly naked women to market to women.

 

And that's an interesting point that brings up a tangent to the main topic. I think it is fairly obvious that Victoria's Secret is using sexually suggestive subliminal persuasion to market to women.

 

This reminds me of another phenomenon I've noticed in the checkout aisle at the grocery store. Nearly every magazine aimed at women suggests sex on the cover in one way or another. They all have headlines like "Please him tonight", "X number of new positions to try" or "Find his magic G spot", etc. A cursory glanc at the magazines aimed at men reveals nothing of the same. They all hint at something like "Make your car faster", "Shoot Straighter" or "Catch bigger fish". We you take it all in as a whole you get the impression that women spend more time thinking about sex than men do. For some reason my real life experiences just don't carry the same message.

 

It's blatantly obvious that marketers are trying to use subliminal persuasion everywhere. I wonder how much it really works though. I imagine that stores like Victoria's Secret do get a little more business from women who think they need their products to look more attractive. I imagine they also get a little more business from men that want their women to be more enticing. OTOH, as soon as my men's wear outlet starts parading sexy men around the store I think I'll do my shopping elsewhere. I think this would probably chase off most of their other clients as well, except for the gay ones. To this end I guess there is some effect of subliminal influence. Sex sells. Does it really appeal to women more than men though? That's the real question :eek:

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I think that there is more pressure on women to be more sexually attractive, because it is more appealing to men. In order to find a mate, women must be more sexually attractive, while men don't have that same pressure. On the other hand, men must be seen as good providers, so we have more pressure to seem successful, socially and financially. Which is why we want the fast cars, and thousands of gadgets - on a biological level, they make us seem more successful, thus better providers for our offspring.

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While a bit off thread, I think it bears some connection. This was brought up by my father one day (a petrophysicist). He noted that many people assume that their peer group is a reasonable representaion of the population as a whole. Unfortunately I think the peer group here (as well as most of us probably have outside of here) is more than likely very skewed from the actual "norm". Just as my father had noted that most of his peers had PhD's or masters degrees, that is not representaional of the educational level of the "average Joe".

 

I bring this up in terms of how we (meaning our peer group, and not the ubiquitous "we") are influenced less by both the overt ploys (buy this cigarette...it will make you popular) and the more subtle images and messages (possible subliminal) because we recognize them. With this acknowledgement, they become much less effective. Much like having heard a joke before. You may giggle, but it isn't as funny as the first time.

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I bring this up in terms of how we (meaning our peer group, and not the ubiquitous "we") are influenced less by both the overt ploys (buy this cigarette...it will make you popular) and the more subtle images and messages (possible subliminal) because we recognize them. With this acknowledgement, they become much less effective. Much like having heard a joke before. You may giggle, but it isn't as funny as the first time.

 

Wondering off topic like yourself, I believe this has been shown to be the reason people with scientific interests like our group are harder to hypnotise. In general, we are a more skeptical group than the average Joe.

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not only with words can music have a subliminal significance.

i will use this song as an example:

radiohead - there there

 

in the very beginning, the song starts off with drums, and an eerie synth pad to give the song more depth.

i love this song, and when i would talk to my friends about it, they seriously could not hear the pad that rests in the back of the song, but they agreed that even when it was just drums, it "sounded eerie"

and drums themselves can't sound eerie...well unless they are like distant huge pounding war drums or something....anyway-

this got me thinking, and i realized something:

your brain hears these sounds, even if you, yourself, don't. and it will affect your body the same way as if you could hear it at a reasonable volume.

this is probably nothing new to you guys, but i found it pretty interesting.

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