Do Subliminal Advertisements Work?

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When I buy something out of impulse, who am I to blame? Is it my lack of self-control or the marketing tricks of the ads I see on TV? Or maybe it’s both. Subliminal messages are not a myth. We have seen them and heard them, but maybe didn’t always realize it. Research shows that they can guide our decisions, but can they control them?

A subliminal message is a signal designed to pass below the normal limits of perception. It may be inaudible to the conscious mind (but audible to the unconscious or deeper mind) or it could be an image transmitted briefly and unperceived consciously and yet perceived unconsciously. If you ever watched Disney movies, or heard “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin you have likely seen or heard some of these messages. Chances are you didn’t notice them as a kid, considering your innocent mind wouldn’t let you, but even as an adult they are very subtle. Careful if you go back to look for them. You might be disturbed.

However, I’d like to focus more on advertisements.

Research has shown that subliminal messaging in advertisements can influence our behavior. In one study, participants were significantly more likely to choose a Lipton Ice drink when they were subliminally primed with ““Lipton Ice”.” Another study found that people could list significantly more unusual uses for a brick when they were subliminally primed with the logo from Apple as opposed to when being flashed the logo for IBM, because people associate Apple with creativity. According to another study, people were more favorable of ambiguous symbols after they were subliminally flashed with smiling individuals. The influence was more effective when the messages were subliminal.

So, is it possible that subliminal messages can control our minds? Probably not. I’m not going to suddenly get thirsty after being flashed a subliminal image of lemonade. In fact, one study showed that such a message would only impact the decision of someone who is already thirsty. But these messages can influence our choices. Now I might pick lemonade over something else.

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