Subliminal Learning-Does It Work?

by Scott Morrice on 12/12/2012

I am coming back to the topic of subliminal learning—the issue that I recently wrote about in my Self Hypnosis and Subliminal Technology post.

This isn’t a completely new issue for me actually.

But–to start at the beginning. In several of my earlier posts, such as How Stress Affects Our Health, A Consciousness Definition, Conscious Of Our Subconscious, and Programming Our Subconscious Mind, I mention that I rely on Dr. Lee Pulos as some of the authority for what I am writing about in those particular posts.

In fact, very early in my journey I was referred to certain books and audio programs authored by Dr. Pulos by one of my health professionals. And I am forever grateful. Among other things, Dr. Pulos was responsible for my interest in self-hypnosis, a healing modality that has been of huge benefit to me over the past several years. I may be a bit of skeptic, as you are probably aware if you have read any of my other posts, but believe me—self-hypnosis works!

But one of the other techniques employed by Dr. Pulos is the use of spoken, subliminal messages on some of his audio programs. Now just in case you are alarmed hearing this, please know that this is done with your complete knowledge. You are never unknowingly participating in this program.

And then I also ran into the idea of subliminal learning when I was examining paraliminals for my Paraliminals-Do They Work? post.

And actually it was that post that sowed the first seeds of any cynisism that I now hold in respect of subliminal learning.

Let me first say that I am not a full blown skeptic in this matter. In fact, I hold Dr. Pulos in very high regard, and if he is a “believer”, then that is probably also my default position.

Having said that, and even though subliminal learning and paraliminals speak to two very different techniques—paraliminals do not contain any subliminal messages—they both seem to come from the same place—they are both targeted at reprogramming our subconscious.

So when I read that the world of paraliminals speaks in terms of neuro-linguistic programming, preconscious learning and other pseudo-scientific concepts, then I also get concerned about the scientific basis of subliminal learning. It is a little like one of the lessons we teach our kids—be careful who you hang out with, guilt by association is lurking just around the corner.

Subliminal messaging takes place just below the threshold of conscious awareness, and it can be either an audible or a visual message that is being produced.

The idea of subliminal messaging took on its “evil” connotation from its alleged use in advertising. There were/are many accusations about the advertising agencies manipulating us with hidden messages on film, television, and in certain audio productions.

So let me very quickly say that I can not find any evidence anywhere, that has not already been soundly discredited, that this kind of manipulation is actually taking place—at least in a focused, directed way. Obviously you kind find subliminal messages everywhere you turn, there are all kinds of subliminal messages out there—but they are occurring naturally.

The dark side of subliminal messaging first received attention in the mid-1950’s. In 1957 James Vicary conducted a marketing study in which he inserted the words “Buy Coca-Cola” and “buy popcorn” onto the film of a movie being played in a theatre. Each message was flashed on-screen for 1/3000 of a second, every 5 seconds, throughout the movie. According to Vicary sales of Coca-Cola increased by 18 per cent, and sales of popcorn increased by 57 per cent!

The study and its results received immediate world-wide attention—and Vicary dubbed this scandalous manipulation of our subsconcious “subliminal messaging”. Books were written, papers published, and ultimately legislation was passed banning the process.

The problem is—Vicary made the whole thing up! The results were fabricated—in fact, the study itself was a figment of his imagination!

Not a very auspicious beginning to what is supposedly a fairly robust technique!

I am certainly not qualified to judge. But—unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any credible scientific studies that support the effectiveness of subliminal messaging in reprogramming our subconscious in a way that results in lasting benefits.

From what I have been able to determine, subliminal messaging does have an impact—of sorts—but it is fleeting at best.

In fact, the following Wikipedia quote seems to sum up the results of my “research” best:

“Research on those claims of lasting effects—such as weight loss, smoking cessation, how music in popular culture may corrupt listeners, how it may facilitate unconscious wishes in psychotherapy, and how market practitioners may exploit their customers—conclude that there is no effect beyond a placebo or making the person conscious of their current condition.”

You know, I find this rather depressing. I had really hoped for more—not just because I was using it myself, and not just because Dr. Pulos is a big fan of it, but because the technique seemed to hold such promise.

But—maybe there is more to come, maybe this story isn’t finished yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

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