While rummaging through a cache of old audio cassette tapes, I came across several subliminal self-hypnosis tapes I have not listened to for several years. Although I’m now skeptical of their efficacy, back in the 1980s, I believed they could greatly influence my behavior. At one time, there were at least half-a-dozen stop smoking subliminal cassettes to experiment with around the house.
Eventually, I managed to kick the cigarette habit and have never since desired to use any tobacco products altogether. In hindsight, the subliminal cassettes enabled me to procrastinate following through on the ultimate goal of quitting. I will give them credit for helping keep me focused on that goal. I do not know if subliminal messages, if any caused the behavioral change. Perhaps it was only the focused desire that really mattered.
There are a few other subliminal cassettes in my stash. A few relate to weight control/healthy eating. There are several that address shyness and social anxiety. Also a few that allegedly help a person to find and keep a romantic partner. The tapes I liked best were those that used guided meditation or auto-hypnosis on the “A-Side” of the tape; then ambient sounds such as ocean surf on the “B-Side”.
The written instructions advise the listener to play the B-Sides either while relaxing, reading, or going about one’s daily household tasks. The instructions caution against playing the tapes while driving or operating heavy machinery. I used to play them at bedtime as a way to help me drift into sleep.
Subliminal persuasion audio tapes and apps are user-selected ways of engaging in subliminal communication. Popular music uses other techniques to communicate subliminally. There is often an underlying spiritual message implied. In some songs, there is also the sexual componant that is either blatant or hidden within the rhythm or poetic lyrics. Advertising is infamous for experimenting with subliminal persuasion to coax consumers into buying more of their products or convincing people to follow particular political and religious belief systems.
One litmus test anyone can perform when listening to or viewing advertising is to be alert to the concept of fun. It’s interesting to hear ad copy use the word “fun” or a common synonym in the context of the sales pitch. In visual ads, we are shown people engaged in entertaining activities while consuming or using the product being touted. The idea of “fun” has some measure of subliminal aphrodisiac effects on the human mind. Fun is seductive because pleasure is such a strong human urge. We desire fun whenever possible.
The marketing of products like soft drinks became effective in that way. Show beautiful, young people frolicking at the beach who are consuming the cola or flavored soda–sales of the product escalate. We can even be aware of the subterfuge being used in such advertisements, but we are still subconsciously affected by the imagery.
We can define “subliminal” as a conditioning of our behavior with techiques to influence how our subconscious minds think. The most time-tested techniques involve socially acceptable rituals. We commonly find these methods used in formal religious gatherings. A similar ritual is used at the beginning of sports contests–the playing of a national anthem ahead of the games. We have swearing-in ceremonies of national leaders and special moments at the beginning of legislatures and town council meetings. These rituals influence our attitudes and moods.
Many of us use ritual during our regular day to day activities. For instance, I put on a particular Seiko chronograph before sitting down at my desk to compose each day’s bluejayblog post. I rarely actually look at the watch, but the slight weight of the timepiece conveys the subliminal message that it’s time to write. After I’m satisfied with the text and have pressed the “publish” button, I remove the watch and wear a different one. The changing of the watches implies that it’s time to go about the rest of the day. This minor ritual has conditioned my subconscious to interpret the sensation of the watch on wrist with a subliminal feeling of connection with the blog.
Subliminal communication is present in nearly everything created and manufactured in our modern world. From carefully composed soundtrack music in films and television to advertising the subliminals are the connecting adhesive directed from the producer to the viewer. It often requires mindful effort from the consumer to differentiate the soundtrack from the film’s action in an objective manner. Even so, in a good movie, our attention is quickly refocused on the film’s activity. Anyone who has heard music and sound effects from another room while their child is engrossed in watching a cartoon program has experienced a disconnect of sound from visuals. The sounds alone seem somewhat annoying. However, when one joins the child in viewing the cartoon, the sounds are less consciously noticed.
We encounter subliminal communication each day without noticing it. Colors and sounds influence our moods. Sight and aroma affect our appetites. These things are present everywhere in our world and it only takes a moment of awareness to notice how they influence us. Meantime, artificially manufactured subliminal communication is both an artform and a science. The persuasive techniques have come a long way since early advertisements and auto-hypnosis cassette tapes. It pays to be mindful and discerning of the technology we consume.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes academic, philosopher, theologian, and writer, Tariq Ramadan. “Advertising, music, atmospheres, subliminal messages and films can have an impact on our emotional life, and we cannot control it because we are not even conscious of it.”