Understanding the Possibilities of Subliminal Recordings- The mind is a powerful tool that responds to various forms of stimulus and motivation. For those who wish to tap into or manipulate the way we process information, subliminal communication is an alternative that has captured the attention of the public for more than 100 years. Subliminal techniques, including audio recordings, have been used to help people gain confidence, boost self-esteem, improve their health, and achieve specific goals. And yes, there is evidence that illustrates the potential of subliminal recordings.
What is Subliminal Stimuli?
Subliminal stimuli refer to communication directed at the unconscious mind, which bypasses an individual's conscious perception. In order to understand the possibilities of subliminal stimuli, recognizing the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind is a must. Your conscious mind is responsible for the way you learn – through repeated experience and actions. New information is stored deep within the mind on an unconscious level.
With subliminal techniques, information is sent directly to the unconscious mind in an attempt to achieve a desired outcome. It is the belief that subliminal messages sent on a frequent, routine basis will lead to positive outcomes, such as overcoming a fear or improving an aspect in one's life. Subliminal recordings (such as self-help tapes) offer an opportunity for individuals to tap into the unconscious mind to promote positive growth. People have successfully used subliminal recordings to improve self-esteem and confidence, treat illnesses, and overcome phobias.
The two main methods of subliminal messaging are visual and audio. Visual subliminal messages can flash on a screen at a speed that makes it hard to detect or are hidden in a way that you do not readily see. Audio subliminal messages range in approach, but consist of recordings that mask affirmations or statements with other sounds or are recorded in such a way that you cannot consciously perceive their meaning.
Factors that Affect the Success of Subliminal Stimuli
There is evidence that suggests using subliminal techniques can be effective when they are goal oriented. The article titled, "Does Subliminal Persuasion Work? It Depends on Your Motivation and Awareness" by Brandon Randolph-Seng and Robert D. Mather, focuses on recent psychological research that sheds more light on subliminal information and how it can influence the preferences and behaviors of people.
The article mentions the growing interest and research concerning subliminal techniques, and that certain factors consistently play an important role in determining the possibilities of such stimuli. For example, a handful of researchers have proved that the current motivations of an individual being exposed to subliminal information affects whether they are persuaded by the message.
For instance, if you have a goal to stop procrastinating, then your feelings, thoughts, and actions typically reflect this desire. Studies have been conducted to prove human motivations can be pursued without the "need of conscious involvement and therefore can be manipulated by subliminal techniques" (Randolph-Seng and Mather, 2009). Therefore, if you are trying to actively correct something in your life, using subliminal stimuli (like audio recordings) could help because of your current motivations.
What is Subliminal Information Theory?
Subliminal information theory suggests that information is not only absorbed and processed without awareness, but that it can also be acted upon without awareness.
Dr. Eldon Taylor is not only the director of Progressive Awareness Research and a Fellow in the American Psychotherapy Association, but is also considered the leading expert in the world regarding subliminal information processing. In his journal article, "Subliminal Information Theory Revisited: Casting Light on a Controversy," Taylor expresses no doubt that subliminal information when presented in an appropriate manner is processed, retained, and acted upon.
Taylor also points out some of the reasons why the greater public's (as well as the scientific community's) understanding of the subject is tainted and hindered by the past. He lists misinformation, overall lack of knowledge, preconceived notions, and fear of criticism as reasons why scientists avoid researching and conducting studies on subliminal stimuli.
When People Jump on the Misinformation Bandwagon
A study commonly used to debunk the effectiveness of subliminal recordings initially evaluated the influence of labels on consumers (Taylor, 2007). Subliminal audiotapes from five different companies meant to improve memory and build esteem were collected. The labels on the tapes were switched, so that when a test subject used a memory improvement tape, they were actually listening to one for building self-esteem. A pre-test was given to measure memory and esteem. After the test period, subjects were brought back to test their progress.
Subjects reported improvement after listening to their tapes. For example, subjects who thought they listened to subliminal memory recordings reported an improvement in memory. However, most subjects did not test any better than before. The study displayed label influence, but did not effectively discount subliminal communication.
The study involving subliminal recordings did not have a single variable. The companies that produced the audio tapes all claimed different methods for their programs. Audio analysis also failed to retrieve messages on any of the programs. An affidavit from the sound engineer stated that at least one manufacturer mixed messages 40 decibels beneath music or sound effects, which is the theoretical limit of most players. The signal strength would have been too weak for listeners to fully detect. All tapes were labeled "subliminal," but did not display the same type or degree of 'subliminal' information.
In conclusion, the study combined multiple variables to arrive at a single deduction that did not accurately reflect the potential of subliminal recordings. Since the scientific study gained a lot of media attention, public opinion was greatly influenced on the subject.
This was not the first time researchers have studied subliminal recordings without proper knowledge or understanding of technical and theoretical aspects of magnetic media and audiology (E. Taylor, R. Sadana and R. Bey, 1990).
Are Subliminal Recordings Effective?
Despite inconsistencies with scientific research of the past and skeptics, there are first-hand accounts that serve as evidence that subliminal recordings work. For example, people seeking alternative ways to improve their physical and mental health have gained assistance through subliminal recordings.
According to Eldon Taylor, "the science of subliminal communication is still poorly understood by many, but it is a true science with valid merits" (Taylor, 2007). He believes that using subliminal stimuli can help an individual overcome the doubt, fear, and negative input that foster "self-imposed limitations."
Beyond scientific studies, there is a wealth of patients who can share personal accounts regarding faster improvement of their health-care issues after listening to subliminal recordings.
Taylor notes that he has received many reports from health-care providers who have used subliminal audio recordings to increase the progress of their patients (in addition to other methods of treatment). These patients have displayed faster improvements with subliminal stimuli than other patients who solely used "traditional" treatment methods.
Research and Studies in Favor of Subliminal Stimuli
Randolph-Seng and Mather believe that with the evidence to date regarding subliminal persuasion techniques, there is no cause to dismiss the notion that such techniques can influence the preferences and behaviors of people. Over the years, numerous studies, reports and research have been written in favor of subliminal stimuli, including audio recordings. A few references include:
· V.A. Kaser's study on the effects of an auditory subliminal perception message appeared in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. After subjects listened to an audio subliminal message (statements mixed in with regular music recording), they were asked to draw pictures associated with their dreams. Test subjects that listened to the music with subliminal hidden content created images relating to the suggestions in their tapes, whereas no correlation could be found with the control group. Kaser concluded, "the unconscious/subconscious mind is able to perceive a recorded verbal message that cannot be consciously heard" (Kaser, 1986).
· Evidence for behavior changes due to subliminal stimuli is discussed in a Skeptical Inquirer article titled, "What every skeptic should know about subliminal persuasion." The authors stated that the public has an incomplete picture of subliminal presentation of stimuli. They also review evidence that suggests that cognition can occur without conscious awareness, which in turn, can affect the judgments, attitudes, and even the behavior of an individual. (Epley, Savitsky, & Kachelski, 1999).
· The work of Robert Bornstein and his meta-analysis approach illustrated how a properly delivered psychoactive message, such as an affirmation (in terms of signal strength) can and does influence the behavior of humans (Bornstein & Masling, 1998).
· A study conducted by Ray Monahan demonstrated that subliminal audiotapes assisted alcoholics in overcoming their addiction [Taylor, 5].
· In the report titled, "Who is the controller of controlled processes?" that appeared in The New Unconscious edition printed by Oxford University Press, Daniel M. Wegner highlights recent scientific research in psychology that demonstrates examples of when actions of humans can be caused by things that they are not aware of (Wegner, 2005).
· In 1981, Dr. Norman Dixon wrote a scholarly book titled, "Preconscious Processing," which summarized nearly 750 references regarding subliminal stimulation. Dixon offered a model for understanding the flow of information and how it enters our consciousness. He stated five factors that affected whether or not a stimulus reaches a conscious level – direction of attention, signal strength, external noise level, internal noise levels, and signal importance (such as the meaning).
· While professor Benjamin B. Wolman held a cautious stance regarding subliminal stimulation, he admitted several conclusions on the matter. For example, he believed that "subliminal stimulus does leave an influence upon the content of subsequent cognition, subliminal stimuli has affected and can affect secondary-process thinking; and conscious thinking can be influenced by stimulus outside of awareness" (Taylor, Bey, and Sadana, 2000).
1. Epley, N., Savitsky, K., & Kachelski, R. A. (1999, September-October). What Every Skeptic Should Know About Subliminal Persuasion. Skeptical Inquirer, 23(5), 40-45, 58. (September-October 1999).
2. Kaser, V.A. "The Effects of an Auditory Subliminal Perception Message Upon the Production of Images and Dreams". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1986).
3. Randolph-Seng, B. & Mather, R. "Does Subliminal Persuasion Work? It Depend on Your Motivation and Awareness". Skeptical Inquirer, 49-53. (September-October, 2009).
4. Taylor, E. "Subliminal Information Theory Revisited: Casting Light on a Controversy". Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association. (2007).
5. Taylor, E. "Thinking Without Thinking." (1995).
6. Taylor, E. Bey, R., & Sadana, R. "Peripheral Perception via Subliminal Stimuli Desk Reference" (revised 2000).