Subliminal messages are tools that are used in daily life without people noticing them. It corresponds to words, sounds, or even images that impact people’s behavior and thoughts. Because of subliminal messages, people act and think a way they consciously wouldn’t. So far, scientists have stated that subliminal messages are very manipulative and persuasive. In this paper, we will discuss the biopsychosocial effect of subliminal messages and their impact and effectiveness on behavior.
Subliminal messages are defined by scientists as visual or oral messages that go to our subconscious mind first. Afterwards, they may go to our conscious but it is not often the case. However, some researches have found that subliminal messages do not impact behavior at all and that people are not influenced by this type of message (Schlaghecken, F. et al., 2004). On the other hand, very recent researches have shown the contrary. Let’s explore the biopsychosocial aspects of subliminal messages in order to debate about their validity.
Many old experiments demonstrated the inefficiency of subliminal messages. To illustrate, doctors Margaret Treimer and Michael Simonson from the Iowa State University presented a study to examine the impact of subliminal messages on weight loss. They made two healthy and physically active groups of people watch two different videos about hypno-vision weight loss daily during thirty days. The purpose was to watch their FIR(Food Intake Recall) and also their FEAT( Food and Exercise Attitude Test) and to compare them at the end of the experiment.
The first video contained vocal and visual subliminal messages and the other was the same concerning its content but without subliminal messages. By the end of the month, they observed a meaningless difference in FIR and FEAT between the two groups of people. They concluded that subliminal messages had no influence on their weight or no influence at all on their behaviours. (Treimer M. et al., 1988). Moreover, some scientists explored the psycho part of subliminal messages. It is called the placebo effect. In other words, if people think that subliminal messages do impact our subconscious brain, it is only because they think they know subliminal messages influence our subconscious mind and not because subliminal messages do go to our subconscious. It is only psychological (Froufe M. et al., 2011).
However, a biological experiment made in 2012 goes against the fact that subliminal messages have no impact on our behavior. By using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), scientists discovered that subliminal messages do activate some parts of the brain that are independent to consciousness level. Indeed, they have observed the activation of the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional memory. They also stated that those messages activate hippocampus, which role is to store memories (long term memories storage). Scientists also noticed that subliminal faces have the greatest impact on our subconscious mind while written subliminal messages do not have a great impact. To prove the idea that subliminal messages do influence subconsciousness, scientists also used Regions Of Interest analysis (ROI), which role is to check the validity of the fMRI. In this study, they could see if the group of people tested was either biased or not. The results stated that they were not biased by the test. Those two analyses prove the validity of what some scientists discovered: Subliminal messages do impact our subconscious brain. Indeed, they used a biological aspect to prove the impact of subliminal messages on our behavior (Brooks SJ, 2012).
Besides, most recent researches showed that subliminal messages do impact our attitude. Doctor Bahrami from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and the University College London Department of Psychology experimented the efficiency of subliminal messages and their impact on our subconscious brain. He tested people wearing filter glasses while completing exercises. He concluded that the subconscious brain receives subliminal messages. He also stated that it was harder for our subconscious brain to perceive those messages when our brain is completing a hard task or when being too busy (Bahador B. 2007). There is another very recent experiment about subliminal messages made in 2007. In Basic and Applied Social Psychology, the doctor in Organizational Behavior Brian S.Lowery and his companions tell us about their work. They actually tested the impact of subliminal priming on academic performance.
The group of people tested was primed with visual messages either linked or not to intellectual capacities a few days before a midterm exam. The results of the exam showed a better performance after the subliminal priming. Thus, the experiment made by Brian S.Lowery and other doctors proved that subliminal messages or subliminal priming do have a long-term impact on behaviour. They have only tested the impact of subliminal messages on academic performance but according to them, it was enough to say that subliminal priming impact our daily life (S.Lowery B. et al., 2007). To put it in a nutshell, recent experiments show that subliminal messages have a great social impact on our behavior.
To conclude, subliminal messages raise a big controversial. The biopsychosocial aspects give us many points of views about the validity of subliminal messages impact on our behaviour. That’s why the debate continues. On one hand, recent scientists discoveries analysed our brain and could see the activation of unconscious levels such as amygdala or hippocampus. The biological aspect of subliminal messages impact on behaviour is really important and has a great influence on the scientific community. On the other hand, some social experiments stated that subliminal messages do not go to our subconscious mind while other experiments stated the contrary. According to some scientists, subliminal messages leave a mark on our subconscious mind and can impact our daily life such as academic performance or weight loss. To finish, other scientists explored the psychological effect of subliminal messages: It is the Placebo Effect. They believe those messages have no impact on our behaviour. People tend to think subliminal messages do impact our brain because they have been primed about that. We may experience subliminal messages in our daily life through advertising for example, who knows?
Treimer, M., Simonson, M. (1988). Subliminal messages, Persuasion, and Behavior Change. The journal of Social Psychology. 1-12.
Lowery, B.S., Eisenberger, N.L., Hardin, D.H., Sinclair, S. (2007). Long-term Effects of Subliminal Priming on Academic Performance. Research paper Series Stanford Graduate University. 151–157
Brooks, S.J., Savov V., Allzén, E., Benedict C., Fredriksson, R., Schiöth, HB. (2012). Exposure to subliminal arousing stimuli induces robust activation in the amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate, insular cortex and primary visual cortex: a systematic meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Neurolmage. 2962–2973.
Schlaghecken, F., Eimer, M. (2004). Subliminal stimuli can bias ‘free’ choices between response alternatives. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 463–468.
Bahador, Bahrami., (2007). Subliminal images impact on brain. One minute world news.
Froufe, M., Schwartz, Cecilia. (2011). Subliminal messages for Increasing Self Esteem : Placebo Effect. The Spanish Journal of Psychology. 19-23.