Before we can understand subliminal messaging, we need to understand now the subconscious mind works.
You see, while you may be able to get your conscious mind to take a break through meditation and sleep, your subconscious mind is always active.
It is constantly collecting, processing and storing information.
The conscious mind is understandably overburdened — after all, it identifies vital information about your surroundings, actively compares environments, situations and people and analyzes and makes decisions with lighting-fast speed. All to keep you functioning.
However, the subconscious mind is much more focused on storing and retrieving data, making it one of the most fascinating aspects of us humans.
The subconscious mind can pick up on sights, sounds and messages that you’re not actively aware of. It does this subliminally (keep this word in mind) and stores the data for future reference
In turn, this data can impact your perspective and understanding of your environment.
It is said that the subconscious mind is akin to a memory bank with a limitless capacity, and the ability to permanently record a person’s scope of life experiences and feelings.
While it can be difficult to recall even the most recent, mundane details (try to recall what you ate for lunch yesterday, or what shoes you wore last weekend), certain practices (like hypnosis) help people recall with perfect clarity events that happened to them many years prior.
Because the subconscious mind has been proven both powerful and accurate, it makes perfect sense that people have tried to manipulate this phenomenon over the years, primarily through subliminal messaging.
What Is Subliminal Messaging?
Subliminal messaging uses key words and phrases to bypass the conscious mind and penetrate the subconscious mind.
Subliminal messaging can be used to alter a facet of a person's consciousness or their thought process in order to enact long-term change.
The practice can be traced back to ancient times.
Indeed, if you study 5th century BC Greeks, you’ll learn that they used clever rhetoric to influence their peers. This may very well be considered the first use of a type of subliminal messaging.
In modern times, subliminal messaging has been used deviously, to manipulate the minds of consumers.
For that reason, subliminal messaging in any form is banned in Australia and Britain, with severe consequences for those who disobey the law.
In the United States, The Federal Communications Commission will revoke a company's broadcast license if the use of “subliminal techniques” is proven.
If governments are banning subliminal messaging, then you know that it has influence and, as you will read below, there are numerous examples of subliminal messaging being used to influence consumers.
A Brief History of Subliminal Messaging in Media
Interest in subliminal messaging hit a new high in the mid-1800s, when the book The New Psychology was published, educating readers on how subliminal messaging could persuade the public.
Eat Popcorn, Drink Coca-Cola
By 1957, market researcher James McDonald Vicary was fascinated by the power of subliminal messaging and wanted to see the technique in action.
He decided to conduct an experiment in a public movie theater in New Jersey.
Over a period of six weeks, Vicary inserted clips that read either “Eat Popcorn” or “Drink Coca-Cola” onto the movie theater screen whenever a film was playing.
Though the messages were flashed too quickly for the human eye to read (3/1000s of 1 second), they clearly made their mark.
Vicary noted that popcorn sales rose by 57% and Coca Cola sales rose by 18.1%.
Get It – Hūsker Dū?
In 1973, viewers watching commercials in America and Canada for the board game “Hūsker Dū?” were flashed a subliminal message saying “Get it”.
Advertisers were beginning to see the value in this method of manipulation.
This practice was exposed in a book by Wilson Bryan Key, in a book called Subliminal Seduction which showed various uses of subliminal messages in advertising.
This book sparked public concern and led the FCC to investigate the practice in 1974. This investigation concluded that the practice was deliberately deceptive:
The use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with a station's obligation to serve the public interest because the broadcast is intended to be deceptive. Any [tv] station employing this risks losing its license.
A Harvard study (1999) looked into a method similar to Vicary's:
Subjects played a computer game in which a series of words flashed before them for a few 1000s of a second. One group got positive words like ‘wise', ‘astute', and ‘accomplished'. The other group were shown words like ‘senile', ‘dependent', and ‘diseased'.
Despite the fact that these words flashed too quickly to be consciously perceived, those who were subliminally exposed to the positive words exited the room significantly faster than those who got negative words. But why?
Judas Priest – Suicide
This next incident is very interesting and was a real controversy at the time:
In the 1990s, a heavy-metal band called Judas Priest was brought to court under the charge that their music had encouraged two young men to commit suicide — through subliminal messaging.
Though the band was exonerated, the effects of subliminal messaging were and still are hotly contested.
Subliminal messaging was subsequently banned from advertising in the UK.
George Bush Vs. Al Gore
During the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush's campaign aired an attack ad against Al Gore's health-care plan that featured subliminal messaging. Near the end of the ad, the word “RATS” quickly flashed on the screen, before the words “Bureaucrats Decide” appeared on the screen.
Al Gore's staff brought it to the attention of the New York Times, which ran a story citing several experts who said looked like an attempt at subliminal messaging. Bush denied it, and the ad was pulled off air.
It makes you wonder what other political subliminal messaging is going on….
Is There Evidence That Subliminal Messaging Works?
Yes, there is plenty of research that suggests subliminal messaging has the power to change thought patterns and even moods.
A team of researchers from University College London concluded that their test subjects showed a likelihood of being impacted by negative subliminal messaging.
In addition, UCL professor Dr Bahador Bahrami noted that the technique is undeniable:
What’s interesting here is that your brain does log things that you aren’t even aware of and can’t ever become aware of. We show that there is a brain response in the primary visual cortex to subliminal images that attract our attention – without us having the impression of having seen anything.
These findings point to the sort of impact that subliminal advertising may have on the brain.
What our study doesn’t address is whether this would then influence you to go out and buy a product. I believe that it’s likely that subliminal advertising may affect our decisions.
Scientific studies have also found that subliminal messaging impacts ‘syntactic’ brain processing to the degree that it may also impact normal cognitive processes.
It has been demonstrated here that emotional information of which the reader is unaware can interact with syntactic processing of sentences at early stages.
The relevance of findings like these should therefore be taken into consideration, not only for their contribution to language models, but also for countless daily-life situations and contexts in which the comprehension of linguistic messages is crucial, as the latter appears vulnerable to unnoticed information in our surroundings.
Silent Subliminal Messaging in Audio Recordings
So we have covered some examples in advertising and visuals in a music video, but what I am really interested in is subliminal messaging embedded in audio recordings. Primarily because it can be used for a force of good, not evil!
Subliminal messaging in audio is quite different to the use of images.
To create a subliminal audio recording, you embed the voice so that it is above the threshold of human hearing but can be detected by the subconscious mind.
This technique can be used to change an individual’s behaviors and beliefs.
This type of manipulation is generally used for self-help motivations such as weight loss, giving up smoking, improving confidence, or breaking another kind of habit.
If you’ve delved into the world of self-help, you’ve likely heard about positive affirmations.
With subliminal messaging, positive affirmations are recorded on the subject matter, after which the audio is filtered above the threshold of human hearing, somewhere at a frequency around 17.5 Hz-20 Hz.
Note: There are other ways to create the silent messaging, but generally the above is the considered the most effective way.
This audio is then usually combined with some ambient music or nature sounds such as ocean waves or rainfall.
The user then plays the track and, even though they cannot clearly hear what is being said in the affirmations, the brain still receives the messaging and trains the subconscious mind to change its beliefs and behaviors for the better.
It turns out that subliminal audio messaging may be even more powerful than imagery.
In one study, participants were played an audio recording featuring subliminal messaging.
The subjects were split into two groups, experimental group and the control group. If you didn't know, a control group helps to make a study more reliable, because you have a reference point that compares those who were exposed to the study methods to those who weren't.
All participants were asked to draw up pre-test drawing, a drawing after hearing the subliminal messaging, and a drawing that represented any dreams they might have that night. The study concluded the following:
Based on the statistical data and certain drawings collected in this study, it would appear that the auditory subliminal message did have an effect upon the imagery and dreams of the subjects in the experimental group. The results of this study appear to indicate that the unconscious/preconscious mind is able to perceive a recorded verbal message that cannot be consciously understood at the high rate of speed at which it was recorded.
Even though there were only 9 participants in each group, the results are positively in favour of the recordings influencing their subconscious mind.
What I think makes this even more interesting, is that when the drawings were analysed they reflected the drains the participants had that night.
And as we all know, the subconscious mind is active at night and influences our dreams.
But what is even more compelling is the amount of patents filed for subliminal audio systems over the past few decades.
When I was researching this post I found numerous patents for systems, one of which was presented for potential use by the US government.
I do not know if it was ever used and am still researching this area for another post, but you can see the diagram below with the patent number.
Indeed, there are so many examples of subliminal audio messaging being used in radio, and even in shopping malls to stop people shoplifting.
Studies have shown that stores that Broadcast phrases such as “don't steal” have a lower rate of shoplifting than comparable stores that do not use it.
Now try and tell me that subliminal messaging doesn't work! Even the CIA has an article about subliminal messaging and its potential uses on its website
How Subliminal Messaging Audio Can Change Your Life
The way to start with subliminal audio is to pick a subject matter that is very relevant in your life.
An obvious one would be that you lack confidence, or that you have trouble losing weight because you struggle to eat healthily or exercise, or perhaps you want to give up smoking, or drink less alcohol.
Or it could be that you want to attract more success and prosperity into your life because you feel that you are always on an unlucky streak and things tend not to go your way.
This gets us down and puts us into a negative frame of mind, and that only brings more negative experiences with it.
The reason it should be a subject area that is relevant to your life and something that affects you on a day-to-day basis, is because for subliminal messaging to be wholly effective, you really have two have a vested interest in changing your habits, beliefs and behaviours around this area.
For example: if you are trying to lose weight and you listen to subliminal audio messaging with positive affirmations around losing weight, you are going to be more receptive than someone who isn’t interested in losing weight.
We are always more receptive to things that we have an emotional attachment to.
In essence, subliminal messaging cannot specifically control your mind or dictate your behavior, but it can inform and influence your decisions. It can change negative beliefs and behaviours by reinforcing positive ones.
And that's exactly what listening to subliminal audio does.
It bypasses your conscious mind and goes down to your subconscious mind where for your entire life thus far, you have being storing these beliefs about yourself: or your potential, your talents, your self-worth, what other people think of you, etc.
It is this information that controls how you live your life on a daily basis.
So unknowingly, many of us are restricting ourselves and limiting our potential, because we are caged in by the barriers of our subconscious mind, which is telling us:
- you're not good enough
- you won't be able to succeed
- you won't get that job
- that person won't find you attractive
- you're not strong-willed enough to give up smoking
- you're not as clever as other people
- you're not worthy of love and compassion
These negative barriers take a long time to cement themselves in our psyche.
For this reason, you will need to listen to positive affirmations via subliminal audio regularly to wipe the hard disk clean and store new, positive beliefs that will help you overcome these self-limiting behaviours that are holding you back from succeeding.
As a quick side note, we should all take care of what we allow ourselves to be exposed to. We all told by our parents about avoiding the negative influence of bad friends. And this principle should carry over into our adult life.
Many of us are surrounded by negative people who have negative habits and opinions, and they project those onto us and create negative energy that we absorb.
Some people are more easily influenced than others. We all know that being around someone who is negative for too long can really take its toll.
Even politics and the news can negatively influence us and penetrate our subconscious mind with lots of negative beliefs about the world.
Listening to subliminal audio can also help us combat these negative elements we are exposed to in daily life.
What Areas of Life Can Subliminal Audio Be Effective For?
Subliminal messaging audio can be used to combat a variety of negative behaviors and insecurities and to learn positive habits:
Common themes include:
- Overeating and weight loss
- Quitting smoking
- Improving self worth and increasing confidence
- Overcoming fear
- Attracting success and prosperity
- Relationship success/attracting love
- Language learning
What's the Most Effective Way to Listen to Subliminal Messaging?
If you’re using subliminal audio to create particular change in an area of your life, listen at least once a day.
This will help enforce the messages you wish to absorb. Play the track 2-3 times over each day.
You might consider listening while you’re asleep; this is a great way to listen and absorb uninterrupted.
Generally, listeners will notice results within two weeks, though it’s not uncommon to experience effects after one or two sessions.
Are the Results Permanent?
Yes, but you need to commit to listening
When you work with subliminal messaging, you are attempting to change long-standing thought patterns and essential beliefs, and this can take some time.
If you dedicate time to altering your thoughts and beliefs, the work you do with subliminal audio will be lasting and significant,
Though you will experience changes in the first two weeks, it will take a bit longer to build a foundation upon which permanent change can take hold.
Do I Need to Be a Native English Speaker?
If you decide to use English subliminal audio, having a baseline knowledge of the language will be most beneficial.
Knowing conversational English will allow you to fully understand the script and the scope of the messaging — this is how you’ll gain the most from your subliminal lessons.
Can I Listen to Subliminal Audio While I'm Asleep?
I mentioned this previously, but yes, this is one of the best ways to benefit from subliminal messaging.
With little to no effort, you can retrain your subconscious for hours on end, a practice that will greatly benefit you in a short amount of time.
When Can I Buy Subliminal Audio to Listen To?
There are three stores I recommend. I have used each to purchase various recordings in different areas:
They are best known for their fab binaural beats music, but they also have some products that feature subliminal affirmations, which is great because this provides deeper, more effective subconscious re-programming
They currently cover weight loss, stopping smoking, abundance and prosperity, and self confidence.
What I like about their subliminal stuff is that they use different instrumentation for each track, and on some of the products they give you an audible affirmations version to train the conscious mind, which I find useful too.
You also get a 2-hour version of the silent track, so you can loop that while you work or while you sleep. This store is always good value for money.
This store is dedicated to subliminal messaging. They have audio for just about every type of self-improvement you can imagine.
They cover categories such as habits, success and abundance, wealth mastery, and law of attraction, improving relationships, language learning, and many more.
My only complaint is that the products use one of three backing tracks for every programme. The first 3 tracks on each album are relaxing ocean, rainfall or nature sounds. The 4th track is the silent track.
That said, there is generally good reason for this. Occasionally, depending on how good your hearing is, you may hear very slight high-pitched sound in a recording which is your ears picking up on some of the frequencies of the subliminal affirmations; it sounds a carb bird chirping really faintly.
So when you use a backing track of relaxing ocean or rainfall, this usually masks any of those high-pitched sounds that you may pick up on.
However, generally most people won't hear anything above around 18k, as explained previously in this post.
Anyway, this is a huge vault of subliminal audio, so I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for.
My last recommendation is Brainsync. This store has historically been known for its guided meditations, which are voiced by Kelly Howell – a well-known voice in this field.
Kelly also offers subliminal audio in the store, and covers a number of topics such as stress, depression, success and abundance, releasing guilt, stopping smoking etc.
I hope this article has helped you understand exactly what subliminal messaging is and how it can be used via images and audio to manipulate and influence the subconscious mind.
Like many things in life, it can be used as a force for good or as a force for bad. The good news is that when combined with music, subliminal audio messaging can be an effective way of bringing about positive change in different areas of your life.
If you have any experiences with subliminal audio, or a story you'd like to share, please leave in the comments section below.