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They'll all fall

Friday, September 09, 2005

Subliminal persuasion, seduction, and tapes - are bogus.

The basic conclusion is that tapes with and without "subliminals" work just as well, as long as people are told the tape contains subliminals. Various details references below.

A nice layman's reference:

Subliminal Persuasion Cargo-Cult Science (Skeptical Inquirer Spring 1992)

This article goes through the research, which was quite conclusive at that point (in 1992). And then "subliminal technologies" had been hyped again and again over a period of a hundred years, and the research against it was overwhelming.

Little has happened since.

Sohlberg and Birgegard's "Persistent Complex Subliminal Activation Effects" (2005) is pointed to by marketeers these days, claiming it is "proof". If you actually read the article, you'll find that the authors are much less sure than most people that refer to them. The authors point out several issues that may be the cause for this, and just cautiously report that the result worth doing more research on.

If you want more background, there's another report from 1992 here, covering the different techniques and history a bit more, and ScepDic is on the case as usual, with a nice selection of references. And even the people that seem to be in favour of the effect of subliminal messages at some level discard the effectiveness of tapes.

The most positive comments I've seen are these from Psychology Today, and with the background on the lower efficiency of audial subliminal priming compared to visual (from above), that seems very very optimistic. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology has a more convential view of this.


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