Have you heard any of these before:
Subliminal messages are controlling you! The government, the aliens, your business adversaries… who knows who is using them to manipulate your brain!
Subliminal messages are quite popular among the conspiracy theoreticians, probably because they have a crucial element that makes them something kind of mysterious: they’re invisible (or at least not easily perceptible). The theory is that someone (insert your favorite enemy) can influence the way you think of something and make you do something that you normally wouldn’t do by presenting some kind of subliminal stimulus to your mind.
Well, the truth is a bit different.
It all started with the popular experiment conducted in the 1950s, today known as James Vicary experiment. Vicary tested subliminal messaging on over 45,000 movie goers – he displayed 2 subliminal messages, one stating “Eat Popcorn” and another stating “Drink Coca-Cola”.
And surprise! The sales went up – popcorn by 57%, Coca Cola by 18.1%. From there it was easy to develop all kinds of conspiracy theories…
But guess what? The people who went to the movie theater were thinking about buying popcorn and Coca Cola anyway – that was the usual behavior in the 1950s (and it still is for many people). The subliminal messages didn’t reprogram their mind to buy something they didn’t want to buy – they simply endorsed the existing way of thinking.
If he had displayed these same subliminal messages to the people at work, for example, it wouldn’t have any effect – because people don’t eat popcorn at work. OK, the Coca Cola might work there, but a lot less.
The same subliminals also can’t make someone who believes that Coca Cola is unhealthy to think that it’s a great beverage all of a sudden.
So what do they do then?
In the article about how subliminal messages can stimulate positive changes we explained that they aren’t a magic pill. They can only work if you have the intention to do something that for some reason you can’t make yourself to do, or to change a pattern of behavior that you know is non-beneficial to you.
In other words, when you want to use subliminal audio to change a certain thought pattern within your mind, you need to support that change with conscious effort so that all of your mind, both conscious and subconscious parts of it, are driven to make that change.
That’s why you actually have to be aware of the subliminals (even if you don’t see or hear them) in order for them to work; it’s you who let them work – if you want to.
The element of regular consumption
There’s one other element of subliminal messaging that makes it practically impossible to be used as mind control: in order for them to make any kind of significant change to your brain, these messages have to be consumed regularly.
What they are supposed to do (in both scenarios – the regular self-help and the conspiracy theories) is to change our beliefs about something (usually something about ourselves or about our perception of the world).
Beliefs don’t form in a day (we have covered this in much more detail in this article), they take time. Now, as a grown up man or woman you already have a stable set of beliefs in place; there’s a lot more effort involved in changing these beliefs than it was when they were first formed, so in order to establish a new belief via subliminal messages you have to be exposed to them frequently and repeatedly.
And you can practically do that only when you have a conscious intention to change that specific belief – play a subliminal audio several days a week, for example, and for at least a few weeks.
They are used in TV commercials and movies, and many other forms of advertisements; but how often do you think you’d have to see a commercial in order for it to make you buy something you don’t want?
TL; DR – Subliminal messages can make the changes to your brain, but only if you want them to and if your conscious intent and actions match the intent of the subliminals. Nobody can “subliminalize” you to do something you didn’t want to do anyway.