How often have you heard that they are? 🙂 A lot probably. And it’s partially true, but not true for the most part.
OK. Here’s the thing: what do you consider subliminal messages to be?
To help you to better understand the issue, we have to discuss three separate questions:
- Subliminal messages in general
- How they are used in ads and TV commercials (and are they illegal), and
- Subliminal messages (including subliminal audio) used as a personal development tool.
Subliminal Messages – Can’t Be Illegal. They’re Natural
As we have discussed in the article about subliminal audio, subliminal messages are all pieces of information that our mind doesn’t consciously register.
And they have nothing to do with sleazy salespeople who put Coca Cola ans McDonald’s in the ads. They’re just all around us. During the day we receive so many information that our mind just can’t process them all. Just take a look at the street you’re on for example: there are so many things going on there, people walking, running, wearing different clothes, talking to each other, the background noise…
Your eyes and your ears register most of it. But your mind doesn’t have to process it all – most of those information are totally irrelevant to you.
So they go “under” the conscious radar. They’re registered, but not consciously processed. And you know the situations when you subsequently remember something that you didn’t register straight away? That’s the information your mind has pulled up right from your subconscious. That was a subliminal message.
So you can’t – no one can’t – make subliminal messages illegal. It’d be just like making breathing illegal.
Let’s move on.
Subliminal Messages in Ads and Commercials
Now this is something completely different. In Australia and UK the use of subliminal advertising has been banned; it’s believed that it was made illegal in the USA as well, but in fact no such legislation was passed.
Still, it’s considered to be unethical, although the studies on the effects of subliminal advertising show very different results.
But let’s give a few famous examples:
Find a frame of the famous McDonald’s golden arches:
Find the word “RATS”:
That’s basically what it looks like in video. But what the studies seem to show is that subliminal advertising can work only when the subjects are already willing to take the next step in the direction that subliminal messages are indicating.
For example, in April 2006 the respected magazine New Scientist published a study that showed that the words ‘Lipton Ice Tea’, screened subliminally, seemed to influence a later choice of beverage; however, the audience had to be in a high need state (i.e. already very thirsty) for the effect to occur.
So in the videos above, someone who doesn’t intend to go to McDonald’s, won’t “be programmed to do so” after seeing the video, and the word “rats” had no influence over those who have already decided who to vote for.
But trying to manipulate the mind of potential buyers is still unethical and we can’t support it, legal or not.
Finally – Subliminal Messages as a Personal Development Tool
No, they’re not illegal. And there really is no reason for them to be.
As we showed a few lines up, subliminal messages only work when the person is already willing to take a step in a direction suggested by the subliminals. For example, if you want to subliminally boost yourself confidence but you don’t have a strong conscious desire to do it (therefore you’re not making any conscious effort to change the way you think about yourself) – they won’t work.
Seriously, they won’t.
But if you’re already driven to improve your life by elevating your self confidence – they will give you tremendous boost in the right direction. In other words, subliminals can strongly support your desire to change something about yourself. But they still can’t make you do something you don’t want to do.
So why should they be illegal? What’s wrong with wanting to become free from phobias, from self-imposed limitations, with wanting to be the best version of ourselves?
They can’t harm you, but they can hugely enhance what you’re already working on.