We all go through life making decisions, using our free will, right? We are certainly smart enough to know if someone is trying to manipulate us. So it makes sense for us to know if someone is using subliminal messages , right?

But subliminal messages are just that. Little hidden words or triggers designed to creep under our subconscious and influence our way of thinking. You do not believe me? There is evidence to suggest that subliminal messages were used as early as ancient times and exercised as a mystical power. So what exactly are they?

What are subliminal messages?

Subliminal messages are messages hidden in recordings such as video, audio, images and music , etc. The word ” subliminal ” comes from the Latin words sub (bottom) and limen (threshold). The threshold is our subconscious and the messages come under it, which means that they are not noticed by our conscious mind .

Before we get too aware of how powerful subliminal messages are said to be, we must first mention a popular study. This study is constantly cited to claim the effectiveness of subliminal messages. In 1957, James Vicary used a drive-in movie that played a movie and simultaneously displayed the words “Drink Coke” and “Eat Popcorn” every 1/3000 of a second. He then stated that Coca-Cola sales had increased by 58% and popcorn sales by 18%. When their results were verified, they were found to be completely false.

This does not mean, however, that subliminal messages do not work. In fact, we see them everywhere in advertising, but they are designed precisely so that they are not detected as ” messages “.

How subliminal messages are used in advertising

” A good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself .” David Ogilvy. You don’t have to go too far before you start looking at clever ways that companies introduce subliminal messages.

Amazon, for example, has created a smiley face by connecting A to Z on Amazon, suggesting that customers will have a good experience with the company.

Coca-Cola designed the shape of its bottle to resemble the curved shape of a voluptuous woman.

Tobacco advertising was banned in the EU in 2005, but Ferrari sponsors Marlboro found an ingenious way around the ban. They painted a barcode in Marlboro colors on the side of their cars that, when they sped past onlookers, remarkably resembled their logo.

If you look closely at the FedEx logo, you can see that there is an arrow in the blank space between the capital E and x, indicating how fast the company will deliver your package.

How supermarkets use subliminal messages

Would supermarkets use tactics like subliminal messaging so we can buy more products? Of course they do, how many times have you walked into a store for just a couple of items and been left with a whole cart full of things you don’t need?

What is the mechanism

Stores have set the environment from the moment you walk in the door to maximize your spending experience. Supermarkets will place fresh produce like fruits, vegetables and flowers at entrances to set the tone for the entire store.

The music in the supermarkets will be slow and soft to allow shoppers to focus. Fashion clothing stores will play loud and fast music to excite their customers.

Many UK stores have banned the sale of sweets and treats at point of sale. However, there is still tempting momentum and last minute shopping in these areas, and at low levels (to attract kids).

Smells evoke not only hunger but also memories. The smell of fresh baking bread can remind you of holidays. Grilled food can remind you to buy something for lunch or dinner.

How People Use Subliminal Messages

Subliminal messages are a well used technique in Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP. There, the way we think and speak is used to change our behavior. It was first created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s in the United States. It is used to treat problems such as anxiety, depression, phobias, behavior disorders, and much more. However, it may be open to misuse, as NLP has also been associated with mind control.

This is how a person would use NLP in conjunction with subliminal messages

The instructor, coach, or handler will carefully observe the person for subtle clues and determine if they are:

  • Right or left brain people
  • Which sense is more prominent (sight, smell, hearing, etc.)

How your brain stores information

Once this individual gets the information they need, they begin to ‘mimic’ the other person to create a sense of rapport. They will do it in a number of ways. The first thing is to copy your body language. They will do this subtly and will know if it is working when the person starts copying them again.

This individual will speak using their preferred language sense patterns. Here are some examples:

  • Someone who has hearing as a more dominant sense would respond well to a question like ‘ Do you hear what I’m saying? 
  • A person who is dominant in sight would relate more to ‘ You see what I mean? 

This way of imitating the other person and creating rapport is to make them lower their guard, open up, and be vulnerable to your suggestions. Once they have let their guard down, the manipulator can influence them using subliminal messages and take them wherever they want. However, they are unlikely to do something that they would not do in real life. You can get them to agree on a date or donate to a cause, but nothing they wouldn’t do under other circumstances.

So can subliminal messages really influence our behavior? It is evident that we are highly influential, especially when it is done by people with knowledge of the subject. Maybe next time, before leaving the store, just review your purchases and pay attention if you really need those products that you have bought, if they are really manipulating your way of acting, or what kind of actions you take.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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