Many people new to the concept of subliminal messages normally have a lot of questions and are rather skeptical about if they actually work or not.
Because of this we have put together this page, which goes over a number of different scientific studies into how subliminal audio and visual messages impact upon the brain as well as social scientific studies into their practicality and applications in everyday life.
Smoking Cessation Study
Thirty-four people took part in a group-oriented therapy package aimed at getting them to stop smoking. The subjects of the group were randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group. The experimental group was exposed to subliminal messages while the control group was not.
Once the therapy was completed the researchers found that 4 weeks later that 67% of the experimental group (the group exposed to subliminal messages) hadn’t gone back to smoking while the control group (the non-subliminal message group) had only 12% of its subjects who had not started smoking again.
Study: Palmatier, J.R., and Bornstein, P.H. “Effects of Subliminal Stimulation of Symbiotic Merging Fantasies on Behavioral Treatment of Smokers.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1980)
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7452209
Seventy-two Israeli 10th graders were put into four groups and each group was shown four times a week for six weeks a different subliminal message. The subliminal messages shown were “Mommy and I are one (two versions of this was used)”, “My teacher and I are one” and “People are walking in the street.”
At the end of the six-week period a maths test was done and the groups who were exposed to the “Mommy and I are one” message achieved significantly higher scores than the other groups.
Psychologists have said that the reason they believe the group exposed to the “Mommy and I are one” message got higher scores is because the message would have had boosted their self esteem, which in turnhad a positive effect on helping them to learn.
Study: Ariam, S. and Siller, J. “Effects of Subliminal Oneness Stimuli in Hebrew on Academic Performance of Israeli High School Students.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology (1982)
Journal Entry: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/abn/91/5/343/
Darts Accuracy Study
A study was conducted on the dart-throwing accuracy of males. The subjects were each exposed to five different subliminal messages and after exposure to each individual message their dart throwing accuracy was measured. The five different subliminal messages were “Beating Dad is ok”, “Beating Dad is wrong”, “Beating him is ok”, “Beating him is wrong” and “People are walking”.
It was shown that when exposed to the message “Beating Dad is ok” dart-throwing accuracy was at its highest.
This study shows that subliminal messages can have an impact on athletic performance even when such a simple positive messaged is played.
Study: Plumbo, R. and Gillman, I. “Effects of Subliminal Activation of Oedipal Fantasies on Competitive Performance.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1984)
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6502153
Weight Loss Study
Two experiments were conducted, one on a group of 26 women and the other on a group of 30 women. All women in the group were at least 15% overweight. In each experiment the women were put in either a subliminal group or a control group. Both the subliminal group and control group were taught basic weight loss and healthy eating methods, such as calorie counting, meal timing and how to properly reward themselves for their healthy eating.
In each of these educational sessions all of them were asked to picture a scenario where they would be tempted to over eat. During this visualization practise they were exposed to a subliminal message for four milliseconds. The subliminal group was exposed to a weight loss based subliminal while the control group was exposed to a neutral subliminal message.
The results found that in both of the experiments the subliminal group lost far more weight than the control group. It was concluded then that the use of subliminal messages has the ability to help people treat there over eating habits and thus aid in weight loss.
Study: Silverman, L.H., Martin, A., Ungaro, R., and Mendelsohn, E. “Effect of Subliminal Stimulation of Symbiotic Fantasies on Behavior Modification Treatment of Obesity.” Clinical Psychology (1978)
It’s appropriate to mention another study conducted by Dr. Becker and his colleagues that also helps to show the massive impact that subliminal messages have on weight loss.
In this study Dr. Becker’s patients at his weight loss clinic in Metairie, Louisiana were made to listen to both audio based subliminal messages and videotapes that contained subliminal messages.
One of his patients managed to lose 100 pounds in just one year and when he conducted a follow-up he found that 50% of his patients managed to keep their weight loss for up to two years after being treated, a figure much higher than those who he treated without the use of subliminal messages.
A group of seventy-two alcoholics undertaking an alcoholism treatment program were divided into an experimental group and a control group. Both groups were given the same regular treatment program and both groups were exposed to a subliminal message four times in each of the six sessions over two-weeks.
The study found that the experimental group, which is the group that received the subliminal message, were more involved in the treatment, had enhanced self-concept, lowered anxiety and depression and their consumption of alcohol was reduced after a 3-month follow-up.
Study: Schurtman, R., Palmatier, J.R. and Martin, E.S. “The Activation of Symbiotic Gratification Fantasies as an Aid in the Treatment of Alcoholics.” The International Journal of the Addictions
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7174161
Academic Performance Study
Sixty college students enrolled in a six-week undergraduate summer law course were exposed to subliminal messages before three out of the five lectures each week and before and after a ten minute counseling session with the person conducting the experiment. The sixty students were split into three groups of 20; the first two groups both received a positive subliminal message while the third group received a neutral message.
After the six-week course it was found that those who received the positive subliminal message achieved higher results than the group who received the neutral message, showing once again that subliminal messages can help improve study skills and academic performance.
Study: Parker, K.A. “Effects of Subliminal Symbiotic Stimulation on Academic Performance: Further Evidence on the Adaptation-Enhancing Effects of Oneness Fantasies.” Journal of Counseling Psychology (1982)
Journal Entry: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cou/29/1/19/
Thirty-two people suffering from Agoraphobia were split into four groups. Three of those groups were shown scenes of outdoor situations designed to trigger their phobia, the fourth group, the control group was shown a scene of a potter working on his wheel. With the three test groups, one group was shown the scenes at a level below the visual threshold, one was shown it under normal conditions and the final group was exposed to it subliminally and normally.
Out of the three groups it was shown that the group that was shown it both subliminally and normally showed the biggest improvement and this improvement was maintained even after a 12 week follow up.
The study shows then that using both subliminal and normal exposure to a message can help to reduce agoraphobia but the best results come when you combine the two.
Study: Lee, I., Tyrer, P. and Horn, S., “A comparison of Subliminal, Supraliminal and Faded Phobic Cine-Films in the Treatment of Agoraphobia.” British Journal of Psychiatry (1983)
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6626854
The Mind Does Actually Hear Subliminal Messages Embedded In Audio
In this study one group listened to audio subliminal messages there were mixed in with a regular music recording. The other group listened to the same music but without the subliminal messages embedded. Both of the groups were instructed to produce a drawing before the music was played and also immediately after the music was played.
The researchers examined these drawings and they found that the drawings of the group that was exposed to the subliminal messages contained images related to the embedded messages they were being exposed to. It was concluded then that the subconscious part of the human mind is able to pick up on a recorded message that cannot be heard by the conscious mind, thus, we do have a subliminal perception.
Study: 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).
Another interesting study related to the ability of the mind being able to hear subliminal messages is one conducted by Dr. Becker. In this study both the experimental and control group were asked to guess a three-digit number. The experimental group was exposed to the number subliminally through a pink noise audiotape.
This study was repeated three different times and it was found that on average 77% of the people exposed to the number through subliminal audio were able to correctly guess it, the control group however only had 10% able to guess it.
The More Subliminal the Message the Greater the Reaction
Bornstein et al conducted an experiment where subjects were exposed to verbal statements embedded in white noise with the volume levels being increased at different levels. With each increase, frontal EMG, heart rate and skin conductance were measured.
The study showed that the physiological reactions of the subjects were highest when the messages were least audible, in other words more subliminal.
Study: Borgeat, F., M.D., Elie, R., M.D., Chaloult, L., M.D., and Chabot, R. B. Ped. “Psychophysiological Responses to Masked Auditory Stimuli.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3971278
The Power of Subliminal Messages to Enter the Subconscious Mind
A study was done where people were either exposed to a message while being consciously aware or exposed to it in a subliminal fashion.
The results of the study showed that the response rate of those that were exposed to the message in a subliminal message was higher than those exposed to it in a conscious manner.
This study goes to show that despite people not being aware of the stimuli, our subconscious mind still has the ability to pick up on it and the awareness of it is much higher than it is consciously.
Study: Shevrin, H. “Does the Averaged Evoked Response Encode Subliminal Perception? Yes.” (1975)
Journal Entry: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1975-28968-001
Learning Capacity Study
A class of university students were split into groups and before each lecture were exposed to either a subliminal message or control message for a total period of 12 sessions with each message being 4 milliseconds.
At the end of the study a final test was conducted and it was found that the groups who received the subliminal messages ended up achieving much higher test scores than their peers who were exposed to the control message.
Study: Cook, H., Ph.D. “Effects of Subliminal Symbiotic Gratification and the Magic of Believing on Achievement.” Psychoanalytic Psychology (1985)
Journal Entry: http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=ppsy.002.0365a
There has been a number of reports of stores using subliminal messages in order to reduce shoplifting, such reports include:
In 1979 TIME Magazine wrote about a chain of department stores in the U.S. and Canada using subliminal messages played through their music systems to successfully reduce shoplifting by customers and also theft by employees.
Wall Street Journal reported in 1980 that a supermarket in New Orleans had used subliminal messages to reduce shoplifting to an all time low in just six months. This resulted in the cost of shoplifting going from $50,000 every six months to $13,000.
An East Coast chain saved in total of $600,000 in just nine-months.
The Subliminal Exposure to Extreme Words Decreases Their Extremity
Four experiments were conducted: In the first one the participants were exposed in a subliminal manger to extremely positive and extremely negative words. After this they were asked to rate the extremity of certain words and the participants ended up rating the words they were exposed to as less extreme than extreme words they had not been exposed to.
A second experiment was conducted using a different evaluation measure and in that experiment and also with experiment three and four, the same findings were reached as in the first experiment.
Study: Dijksterhuis A, Smith PK. “Affective habituation: subliminal exposure to extreme stimuli decreases their extremity.” Social Psychology Program, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2002)
Journal Entry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12899354
Verbal Subliminal Messages Can Affect Associated Conscious Thoughts
The subjects were shown the word “Happy” on a screen very quickly and it was followed by a drawing of an expressionless face, the same thing was also done with the word “Angry”.
The study showed that subjects found the face more pleasant when shown it after “Happy” and less so when shown it after “Angry”, showing then thatthe meanings of words that people are exposed to subliminally can influence associated conscious thoughts.
Study: Smith, Gudmund J. W.; Spence, Donald P.; Klein, George S. “Subliminal effects of verbal stimuli.” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (1959)
Journal Entry: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/abn/59/2/167/
Subliminal Exposure to Images Increases a Persons Attitude Towards It
A study was conducted where undergraduate subjects were shown abstract geometric images at a subliminal level and also at a non-subliminal level. The subjects attitudes towards the images presented subliminally become more and more positive with each exposure, even when the subjects were not aware that they had been exposed to it.
A second experiment was then conducted where the subjects were subliminally exposed to photographs of actual people and like with the first experiment, the more of an exposure the more positive subjects were to the photograph.
Lastly a third experiment was conducted where subliminal exposure to photographs of people showed thatthe attitude towards that individual in person was enhanced.
Study: Bornstein, Robert F.; Leone, Dean R.; Galley, Donna J. “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” (1987)
Journal Entry: http://www.researchgate.net
Enhances the Effectiveness of Therapeutic Procedures
Thirty-six female college students were split into three groups of twelve. Each group contained 6 experimental subject and six control subjects and all subjects participated in three group-counseling sessions. Before each session took place the subjects in the experimental group were exposed to the subliminal message “Mommy and I are one” and the controls were exposed to the neutral subliminal message “People are walking”. The groups were all given different levels of counselor self-disclosures. The first group received 8, the second 4 and the third received none.
Once the study was completed it was shown that the subjects exposed to the positive subliminal message had more self-disclosures than those who received the neutral message, the study thus showing that the use of subliminal messages can enhance the effectiveness of therapeutic procedures.
Study: Linehan, Edward; O’Toole, James “Effect of subliminal stimulation of symbiotic fantasies on college student self-disclosure in group counseling.”Journal of Counseling Psychology (1982)
So there you have it, there is a lot of credible research into subliminal messaging and it’s influence upon the human mind it isn’t only James Vicary’s questionable research. We are committed to keeping this page up to date and will add new studies as they are released.