They were used in a cinema in 1957 and then banned by The USA & UK in 1958. Advertisers have been accused of manipulating the buying public with them and the self improvement industry makes a foryune from them. Advertising agencies swear that they don’t use them and many scientists say they don’t work. So why were the CIA so interested in subliminal messages?
subliminal, personal development, personal growth, self improvement, self help
In 1957 the world was awakened to the frightening possibility that our minds could be manipulated. In a simple experiment, by James Vicary, involving popcorn, coke and a cinema audience, we were lead to believe sales were increased through the use of subliminal messages. Although the experiment was ?unsubstantiated? and it has never been replicated successfully, the belief that subliminal messages can affect our behaviour lingers on in the public mindset. It sent fear through the civilized world.
In Washington, D.C., legislators headed by William Dawson, began a campaign to ban the use of subliminal messages in television and radio. He warned that if subliminal messages were put to political propaganda purposes they could serve and maintain a totalitarian government.
Although there was no real evidence to substantiate this claim the public outcry was deafening. Even then, as today, many scientists had serious reservations about the effectiveness of such techniques – they just didn?t believe they worked. The greatest majority of opinion within the scientific and governmental communities was that subliminal persuasion does not work. However, the public wanted them banned!
Could that be the reason why the USA, British and Australian Governments banned their use on television? Or is it possible that somewhere along the line some other people found that by using subliminal messages it really is possible to affect people?s behaviour?
These messages, being subliminal (presented just below the threshold of conscious awareness), intrigued a very powerful group not long after the Vicary experiment. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), have always been involved in the development and research of mind altering drugs and therapies. So it should come as no surprise to you to find out they invested a lot of resources and manpower into studying the subject of subliminal persuasion.
In classified documents, that were released under The Freedom Of Information Act, it can seen just how involved the CIA has been in researching the effectiveness of subliminal messages.
So what did they find out?
Well, under pressure from journalists and Congressional Investigators, the CIA have released a variety of documents including previous year?s copies of their journal titled ?Studies in Intelligence?. In one such Journal, dated 1958, the CIA reported their initial investigations into subliminal persuasion. The report was scarily called ?The Operational Potential of Subliminal Perception?.
It should be noted that this was just one year after the Vicary experiment. The best available evidence is the surviving documentation on the CIA’s research programs.
In a book written by Martin A. Lee, an unnamed former CIA agent said that some thought had been given to whether they could affect a political outcome by using subliminal messages on television and radio. In a declassified document, from January 17th 1958, the CIA stated that in their subliminal projection it might be possible to include a subliminal message such as ?Obey? and added that subliminal messages achieved some success in commercial advertisements!
No-one knows if the CIA ever finished their investigations into subliminal technology or if it continues to this day. However, its use as a self improvement tool is growing every year. So, there must be something in it. Isn?t it time to tried one?