What Are Subliminal Messages?
Is it really possible to control someone’s actions by sending a subtle yet powerful message?
It turns out, it might just be!
Subliminal messages aren’t something you’re consciously aware of. These are messages sent via words, music, or images that are flashed into your mind for a split second, not giving your brain enough time to process them properly. As a result, they’re stuck in your subconscious, powerful enough to perhaps dictate your actions.
For instance, if you were walking around a supermarket and music was playing on a loop that had a slight Italian sound to it, you would probably be somehow drawn to the aisle with the pasta sauce and spaghetti.
Your subconscious is telling you to eat Italian food because of the cue that is on a loop in your mind. It’s subtle, but it’s enough to prompt your mind.
It’s fascinating how the brain works!
Subliminal messages are used by marketers to try and seduce you into buying their products.
They’re also used as a self-improvement tool. Basically subliminal messages can be used for you or against you, and you really don’t have much control.
Are Subliminal Messages Basically Mind Control?
You could argue that in some ways they are, but there is a positive side to it too.
In terms of advertisers trying to get you to buy their products, perhaps you could all it a form of brain manipulation.
But, it has to be very subtle and at just the right level to make us actually change our behavior and buy a product simply because something is nagging at us to do so.
Some people have a big problem with the use of subliminal messages in this way because it’s almost as though your mind is being manipulated without your consent.
However, you can use subliminal messages for your greater good too.
Perhaps you want to stop smoking, so you use a tape that you listen to whilst you’re sleeping.
This tape sends subliminal messages into your subconscious to rewire your brain and therefore your behavior.
If you’re interested, check our article on how the subconscious mind creates our reality.
The same can be said for boosting self esteem.
What do Subliminal Messages Actually Look And Sound Like?
The fact that subliminal messages are so subtle means it’s not just about playing “buy my product” over and over until you fall into a hypnotic trance.
It has to be delivered just below the level of human consciousness.
For example, let’s go back to the Italian food in the supermarket.
The Italian sound to the music wouldn’t be full on, it might be an Italian-style instrument that is hidden just beneath a louder and more dominant sound.
Or, the sound may be just below the range of frequency that a human can detect.
If it is a written subliminal message, it might appear on your screen in flashes, literally for less than half a second.
It’s too fast to be consciously aware of it, but your brain records it anyway.
Subliminal messages are super-subtle, and whilst you don’t know about them, a deeper part of your brain does, and your behavior may be affected as a result.
The key however is repetition. Exactly the same thing is for positive affirmations.
Subliminal messages aren’t going to work if your brain becomes aware of them just once or even twice; they need to be repeated on a loop, almost hypnotizing your brain to a small extent.
Constant flashes of words on a screen, a line in a song that is repeated on a loop, these are subliminal messages that are effective.
Can You Stop Yourself Acting Upon Subliminal Messages?
Ah, the key question.
If it’s mind control, surely you can’t stop yourself from doing whatever the message is telling you to do.
Thankfully, it’s not quite that simple.
It’s thought that if you’re aware of the possibility of subliminal messages coming your way, they’re not as effective.
For instance, if you’re aware before you walk into a shop that you might be exposed to advertising for a new brand of cola, it wouldn’t work as well as if you had no idea.
So, does subliminal messaging work all the time, without warning?
No. We’re all completely individual and the human brain is super-complicated. That means that whilst subliminal messages can be very effective a lot of the time, they’re not fool-proof.
You still have free will at the end of the day.
You’re not going to walk into a supermarket and have music played below the subconscious level and automatically buy a pizza.
If you don’t fancy pizza, you’re not going to buy It. So, you need to be at the point where you could be persuaded, and that’s not going to happen all the time.
In terms of marketing however, subliminal messaging is certainly a useful tool.
Whilst it might not work 100% of the time, it’s got a pretty good success rate regardless.
It might simply make you curious and if you’re inclined to, you might act upon that curiosity.
Subliminal messages are powerful yet not completely effective all the time.
If this were the case, advertisers would have a huge ethical concern to consider – how can you force someone into buying a product just by playing a song or flashing some words on a screen?
Despite that, if you want to use subliminal messages for self-development, you may find they work for you.
If you want to give up a specific habit or boost your self confidence, these messages may be enough to re-wire your brain, given that you’re completely open to the process.
The next time you’re walking around a supermarket or a shopping mall, try and see if you can figure out where messages might be coming from.
If you suddenly feel like you want to check out a particular product, explore where that inclination may have come from.
You never know, there might be some pretty powerful advertising techniques at hand, trying to manipulate your brain to the company’s benefit.