Subliminal Messages – Truths and Myths
The idea of subliminal messages is at the same time a powerful concept, but also a dangerous idea. If they work, that means we can program in new behaviors and ideas. But if they work, that also means that others can use them against us, making us buy things or do things we don’t really want.
In this article, we’ll go through science behind them, so you’ll have a much more thorough understanding of both sciences, fact and fantasy.
The idea is simple enough. Blast your mind with positive suggestions or statements, they’ll start to change your beliefs, and without any effort on your part, other than listening to these seemingly magical sounds, your life will be transformed.
Or if you are an advertiser, blast messages during TV shows and people will obediently do what they are told. This has got to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, right?
Right off the bat that sounds kind of fishy. As much as I love new age technology, Law of Attraction type stuff, and even psychic phenomenon, the scientist part of me feels a need to explain things so I’ll understand how they work.
Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. Snake Oil salesmen have appeared in many forms throughout history. They generally follow the same strategy. Promise the moon, collect the money, then get the heck out of town before people wise up.
Of course, there wouldn’t be any snake oil salesmen unless we were all suckers. Why are we suckers? Why are we so easily conned? Mostly because we want something for nothing. We’d like to drink some magic potion, chant some magical incantation, or listen to some magic sounds that will do all the heavy lifting for us.
Now, before you leave in disgust, let me state clearly. Subliminal Messages although not the best description, DO work, and they work well. But in order for them to work, we have to understand WHY they work, and HOW they work, so we’re not wasting our time.
Coke and Popcorn Flash
It all started allegedly in a movie theater in the fifties. Some advertiser got the bright idea to quickly flash messages on the screen for Coca Cola and Popcorn. Allegedly, when they did so, it “made” people suddenly get hungry for Coke and Popcorn.
Sales increased in a statistically significant way.
Ever since then, advertisers have been trying every angle they can think of on us poor consumers to get us to buy more stuff. No wonder we’re always broke!
It will help to understand the difference between visual subliminals and auditory subliminals. Visual subliminals are flashed very briefly. Several studies have shown that they are indeed effective.
Advertisers wouldn’t spend to much time and effort if they weren’t.
In order to understand why, we need to understand our “Pre Conscious Processor.” This is that part of our brain that sees and categorizes everything that comes across our senses. It then decides which information to present to our conscious minds, and which stuff to put in our subconscious.
The stuff that’s important will be presented to our conscious minds. This is the stuff we notice. The stuff that’s not important will be shoved in back, behind all the other junk we’ve got in our brain.
How the heck does our pre-conscious processor know what’s good and what’s bad? Luckily, we come pre-wired with some helpful settings.
“Good” things are anything that represents obvious good things, such as money, your name, sexy people, increased social status, or food.
“Bad” things are anything that represents danger. Insects, snakes, loud noises, letters from your bank, the sound of your boss’ voice, etc.
Everything else will be determined to be unimportant, and will be filed away into your subconscious for later retrieval, if necessary.
This is also why when you buy a red car, you suddenly see red cars everywhere. Since you just spent a ton of money on a red car, your pre-conscious processor figures red cars and starts pointing them out to you. They were there all along, you just didn’t see them.
The timing between a stimulus and conscious awareness is about a quarter of a second. This means that even if you did see something that was important, either from an instinctive level or a goal programmed level, it would need to be present for at least a quarter of a second for your conscious to recognize it.
This means if you see a flash of something good, and then it disappears, it will be noted by your pre conscious processor, but it will vanish before your conscious mind gets around to noticing it.
So if you’re sitting in the theater and they are flashing pictures of popcorn and coke, you might not consciously see them, but your subconscious will.
This will leave you with a vague feeling of desire for that particular thing, provided it falls under the category of either a programmed desire (food, sex, money) or a strongly programmed goal (like a certain type of car, etc).
First Requirement For Effective Stimulation
For a visual stimulation to be effective, it must convey something that you either want on an instinctive level, or something that you want on consciously programmed level.
Now, let’s recall those first advertising experiments. They flashed images of Coke and popcorn. Since these fall under the category of “good things” (food) according our preprogrammed instincts, they were effective.
But consider something else. Whenever you do an experiment, it’s helpful to subtract out the “background noise.” This is going to get a bit mathematical, so hang on!
Suppose those early scientists said that flashing subliminal messages of coke and popcorn in the theater increased sales by twenty percent, on average. This means we need to look at average sales, and figure out how many actual sales it increased by to get that twenty percent.
Average theaters have about 300 seats. And let’s assume (we’re going to be making a lot of assumptions here!) that the average showing has 2/3 capacity so each theater has 200 people. Let’s also assume that on average, 3/4 of those 200 people normally buy popcorn and coke. So out of 200 people in a theater, on an average night, 150 buy popcorn and coke. What would be a 20 percent increase? Twenty percent of 150 is 30. So by flashing pictures of coke and popcorn, they got another thirty people to buy popcorn and coke.
Let’s think about this. Consider those 30 people on an average movie night who DIDN’T buy anything, compared to when they DID. How much of an internal change would those flashes on the screen would those messages had to have had on those thirty people?
They were already in a theater. They probably had been to a theater before. Chances are they’ve had popcorn and coke before. And they were surrounded by people who were eating popcorn and coke. So they could SMELL the popcorn.
When you take everything into consideration, flashing popcorn and coke might have just been the final thing that made them decide to get up and buy the popcorn and coke. There was a lot of other factors going on (their experiences watching movies before, the smell of popcorn, the social proof of people around them eating popcorn) that HELPED the subliminal messages.
Had they flashed images of dish soap, or a brand of clothing (without a sexy model) it wouldn’t have had any effect. The pre conscious processor would have quickly decided it wasn’t important, and after the image vanished in a quarter second or so, that would be that.
Selling Food Works – But What About Sex?
When they are not selling food, the next most common human desire is sex. Luckily, sex is a lot easier to leverage than food. You can connect sex to a lot of things. Sex makes everything seem better. Put a sexy girl next to something, and you’ll sell more of whatever that is.
First Law Of Visual Subliminal Advertising
For any subliminal advertising to work, it has to be an image of something you already are pre-programmed to want. This is why advertisers embed sexual images into various campaigns. They are either flashed or shown covertly, we get a vague feeling of desire, and since we are looking at their particular product, we simply assume our desire is for that product.
Whatever advertisers are selling, if they can sneak any kind of sexual idea in there, they will.
What About Self Improvement?
Does this mean that if we are going to use these for self improvement, we’ve got to somehow connect our desires for sex? Not at all.
Remember, those advertisers have only got our attention for a brief amount of time. They’ve got to slam us with sex as quickly as possible to grab our attention.
When it comes to self improvement, what we don’t have in power, we have in time. That means we can use specific images and messages more congruent with what we are trying to achieve, so long as we realize it’s going to take a while longer to get there.
For people in a crowded movie theater, those advertisers only have a few minutes. But when using subliminal techniques to put new beliefs into our mind, we can take as long as we want.
There’s plenty of useful computer programs that run in the background, and flash positive messages on your computer screen while you are working.
These won’t be effective as quickly as advertisements, but they will work. Instead of reaching inside and tugging on your carnal desires, they’ll slowly fill you up with positive messages that will have a profound effect over time.
How To Construct Visual Messages
Simpler is always better. While they are books on affirmations, be sure to understand that when speaking to your subconscious, short, simple and powerful statements are much better.
For example, if you were intending to lose weight, you may be tempted to write something like this as one of your visual stimulations:
I am my ideal weight and I accept and love my body as an expression of my true inner self.
This sounds great when you read it slowly and consciously, but when it’s flashed in a quarter of a second to your unconscious, it will be too confusing to even process. This means it will take a LOT longer to have any effect.
Often we get confused with what sounds good consciously, and what is most effective subconsciously. Think in terms of short sentences with specific power words. Bullets of ideas.
Something much better might be:
I love exercising.
It’s simple to understand, and simple to process. There are no abstract concepts or ideas. To make it even better, you might change it to say:
Exercising is sexy.
This way, you’ll connect your deep sexual desires to your desired behavior. Which brings us to another point. One common mistake in creating visual stimuli is to state the outcome. For example, if you wrote the statement:
I am at my ideal weight.
You might start to believe that your ideal weight is how much you weigh NOW, which means you won’t feel motivated at all to lose weight.
One way to get around this seeming paradox is to construct visual stimuli that will generate the behavior that will get you to your goal.
Instead of targeting your outcome, consider thinking of the behaviors that will create the outcome, and then target those behaviors.
So, instead of writing things like:
I am my ideal weight.
I accept my body.
I fit into my clothes.
Consider writing about behavior that would have a high chance of getting you where you want to go:
I love to exercise.
I love eating healthy food.
I eat a balanced diet.
I cook all my meals.
See the difference? The first group of statements could easily be misunderstood to keep you where you are. Even the part about “fitting into your clothes” may have the effect of getting you to buy new clothes!
The second group, on the other hand, were they all true, would naturally lead you to where you want to be.
To better improve your chances, connect your targeted behavior to any idea of sex or money or social status.
Since these are deeply craved by our ancient instincts, they will help you to take on your new behaviors. For example:
Eating healthy food is sexy.
Eating healthy food makes me popular.
Exercising is sexy.
Exercising makes me attractive.
The intention is not to become attractive, or popular. The intention is to simply connect those deep pre-programmed desires to things you’d like to do or become.
Visual Subliminal Summary
To best create your intended outcome, construct your visual stimulations according to the following general guidelines:
- Think Of The Behaviors That Will Lead To Your Outcome
- Program Those Behaviors Instead of Your Outcome
- Make Short Powerful Sentences
- Connect Sex, Social Status, or Money To Your Behavior Statements
How To Program Visual Messages
There are plenty of software packages to choose from, both free and paid.
But if you don’t want to do that, there are other methods. One is to write down your statements on small cards, and place them where you will see them in your peripheral vision on a daily basis.
To make them even more powerful, take any image you determine to be sexually attractive, and place your statements on that image. Your subconscious will merge your sexual desire with your statement, and you’ll be leveraging the same power as large advertisers.
Auditory Subliminal Messages
These are largely misunderstood. It’s assumed that since visual subliminals are so effective, that auditory ones will be as well. However let’s remember why visual stimuli are so powerful.
One is because they are centered around sex, money or food. Another important thing to consider is that visual images are not time dependent.
This means that any visual image will immediately be recognized by our senses. It takes a very short amount of time for the entire visual image to make an impression on our subconscious.
So when these visual images are flashing, they are being presented LONGER than the required time to be registered by our brains. There is no time component.
Sound, on the other hand, doesn’t happen instantaneously. When you look up at the wall, and see a picture of a sexy person, it’s going to take you less than a split second to recognize it as such.
Now, consider somebody describing that person to you ONLY verbally. How long would it take? Obviously, quite a bit longer. Describing things with words takes much longer than describing that thing with pictures. (A picture is worth a thousand words!)
Since sound takes longer to be heard, and to be processed, it simply doesn’t lend itself to being delivered subconsciously, at least as effectively as visual images.
Many subliminal tapes have sound that is below the conscious level of hearing. Understand this is completely different than the way visual stimuli are presented.
Now, consider if verbal messages were delivered in supersonic speed, so they happened as quickly as that image of popcorn flashed up on the screen.
Would they work? Probably not.
Why? Simply because our brain is not set up to interpret messages that are spoken that fast. Information can be processed much quicker visually than auditorily.
On a basic level, visual messages are delivered in a very different structural procedure than auditory messages.
This doesn’t mean that sounds can’t be used for personal improvement and effective programming, they absolutely can. We just have to be a little clever in how we construct our programming sessions.
What’s In A Name
We all know what happens when we hear our name spoken from across the room, right? We suddenly perk up and pay attention. Even if it’s not our name, but sounds like it, we turn and look at whoever said it.
According to recent studies, your subconscious can interpret over 25,000 bits of information per second.
The conscious mind can only handle about 50 bits per second.
This means that the vast majority of all the stimuli that is hitting our senses (eyes, ears, mouth, skin, nose) is disregarded as unimportant, at least to our conscious minds.
However, when we do sense something that is either important to our survival, or important because we programmed it that way, our conscious minds will suddenly take notice.
In order to create effective auditory messages, we’ve simply got to create the same process.
The messages have to be there, but they have to be there in a way that won’t be blocked by the conscious mind.
Remember, the purpose of all hypnosis and subconscious programming is to bypass the conscious critic, and deliver messages, ideas, and beliefs directly into the subconscious.
So we must create sound files where the voices that are telling is what we want to hear are “drowned out” by other sounds.
And since our subconscious mind cay pay attention to 25,000 bits of information per second, this means we can put a lot of voices in there.
How To Make Statements
The structure of building the proper statements is the same as the statements for visual stimulation.
- Choose an intention or outcome
- Decide on Behaviors that will lead to that outcome
- Choose short, clear statements that will create that outcome
- Repeat as often as needed
For example, let’s say you wanted to meet new people, make new friends. What behaviors would induce this outcome?
- Being outgoing
- Going to new places
- Being social
- Talking to strangers
- Making Eye Contact With Strangers
- Smiling at People
These are the things that you’d program in that would generate the outcome. What would be some potential statements?
- I like going to new places
- I love going to new places
- Making eye contact is easy
- Making eye contact is exciting
- Smiling is natural
- Smiling is easy
- Smiling is safe
- Talking to people is fun
- Talking to people is easy
- Talking to people is familiar
- Talking to people is natural
Then simply record your affirmations, mix them however you like, and you’re ready to go!
Here’s a brief sample, including those above statements. Both I and You have both been included, as have male and female voices. There are sixteen voices speaking at once. Too many to comprehend by your conscious mind.
This “subliminal” has theta brainwave inducing sounds in the background. Their purpose is to further relax and mind so it will be open to new suggestions. Do not listen while driving!
The reason we want to bypass the conscious mind (and the reason why spoken affirmations don’t work so well) is our conscious mind is going to reject anything that’s not true, or could be potentially dangers.
Imagine a very shy person who is terrified of meeting new people. Just saying, “I enjoy meeting new people” out loud will create inner conflict. Part of them wants to, but another part is terrified. Even listening to that statement by a single voice may create inner conflict.
But when the brain is bathed in too many voices to understand consciously, the conscious critic can’t reject any of them. Listened to long enough, they will begin to have the desired affect.
How To Accelerate Auditory Subliminal Messages
One way to enhance these is to imagine an ideal situation while you are listening. This is another advantage over spoken affirmations. While you are busily creating an image in mind with all your conscious energy, that makes it much easier to accept the statements, since they are congruent with the image you are creating.
If you connect the image with a strong feeling of desire, that is if you imagine the absolute best possible outcome (in this case going out and meeting people) while listening to the voices, this will give you the absolute best chance of success.
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