Is Subliminal Influence a Threat?
© 2/1999 ToddStark@AOL.COM
yes, subliminal influence of various kinds could represent some sort of social
threat. It isn't likely that people could be turned into automatons by subliminal
influence, but it is arguable that we are already greatly, even unfairly, being influenced
by carefully crafted psychologically sophisticated persuasion tactics.
size="2">The development of new technologies, such as high resolution
television, make the possibilitues even greater. The incredible amount of time most
of us spend in front of a television creates a real potential for even a relatively
weak message to become effective through sheer massive repetition.
The potential is not just that people might be persuaded
to favor one product over another arbitrarily, or buy junk that they don't need.
There is also a potential that our morals might be subtly usurped, and that the
entire social and political structure could be influenced by swaying our voting
preferences and decisions on important issues. This is by no means limited to
"subliminal" influences ! It is true of all sources of information that we
To the extent that we are already greatly
influenced by mass media, the situation can only become more complex with increasing
Are we currently being influenced subliminally
? Even James Vicary, the inadvertent founder of the subliminal movement, was
amazed that people found his invention such a threat. Read more on the href="http://www.parascope.com/articles/0397/sublim.htm">background history of
subliminal influence to put it into better perspective. Vicary considered it to be
most useful as a way to reinforce an advertisers message in a more efficient way, not as a
way of changing buying behavior. This is closer to what researchers find in their
subliminal priming experiments.
But remember that the public later came to use the term subliminal
in a much broader way than applies to Vicary's device or subsequent image flashing
devices. Many of the basic principles of influence discovered by social
psychologists also fall under the wide umbrella commonly intended by subliminal as
any hidden message or influence. These are definitely effective, and definitely
widely used to persuade us.
The danger is not specifically from unseen
messages. It is from the holes in our thinking that can be exploited in all sorts of ways.
Unseen and unheard messages are neither the most threatening nor the most effective
forms of influence that we should be concerned about.
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