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Archive for subliminal messages


Subliminal Messages and the Law

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Interested in the legal view on subliminal messages in advertising? According to the Federal Trade Commission, advertising must:

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
  • Advertisements cannot be unfair.

When is an ad deceptive?

  • Is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances; and
  • Is “material” – that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product.

And when is it unfair? When it

  • it causes or is likely to cause substantial consumer injury which a consumer could not reasonably avoid; and
  • it is not outweighed by the benefit to consumers.

What makes it deceptive?

  • The FTC looks at the ad from the point of view of the “reasonable consumer” – the typical person looking at the ad. Rather than focusing on certain words, the FTC looks at the ad in context – words, phrases, and pictures – to determine what it conveys to consumers.
  • The FTC looks at both “express” and “implied” claims. An express claim is literally made in the ad. For example, “ABC Mouthwash prevents colds” is an express claim that the product will prevent colds. An implied claim is one made indirectly or by inference. “ABC Mouthwash kills the germs that cause colds” contains an implied claim that the product will prevent colds. Although the ad doesn’t literally say that the product prevents colds, it would be reasonable for a consumer to conclude from the statement “kills the germs that cause colds” that the product will prevent colds. Under the law, advertisers must have proof to back up express and implied claims that consumers take from an ad.
  • The FTC looks at what the ad does not say – that is, if the failure to include information leaves consumers with a misimpression about the product. For example, if a company advertised a collection of books, the ad would be deceptive if it did not disclose that consumers actually would receive abridged versions of the books.
  • The FTC looks at whether the claim would be “material” – that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product. Examples of material claims are representations about a product’s performance, features, safety, price, or effectiveness.
  • The FTC looks at whether the advertiser has sufficient evidence to support the claims in the ad. The law requires that advertisers have proof before the ad runs.


And that is a bit on the law and how Subliminal Messages within advertising may be viewed.






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Judas Priest and Subliminal Messages

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Did you know that the band Judas Priest was accused of inspiring a double suicide by having subliminal messages in their music. It even went to trial. The interesting part about it is the song that they sang that was at the heart of the accusations was not even written by them. Here is an interview of what happened. You decide for yourself whether subliminal messages was at the heart of this tragedy or simply a scapegoat used to try to place blame and assuage a family’s grief.

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When was subliminal messages first noticed in advertising?  In 1957 ,  James Vicary claimed to find amazing increases in the sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn when he flashed the phrases “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat popcorn” for 1/2000 of a second during a movie. The statistics showed an increase in popcorn sales by 58%, with an increase in Coca-Cola sales by 18%. (Cane) This is perhaps the shocking information that led to an enormous response from the public. Individuals as well as legislators imagined possible effects of subliminal perception on the future- a world where everyone was subliminally manipulated to do what perhaps the government wanted them to do. (Elliston) In reality though, research on subliminal effects has shown little overall effects in controlled conditions. There is no evidence based in real-world settings done by top researchers on influencing behavior. Also, in 1962, Vicary stated that the study was a fabrication and the evidence now suggests it was. He never released a detailed description of his study and there was never any independent evidence to support what he claimed.

Throughout history, we have looked to political and governmental institutions to examine whether mind control and subliminal perception has been used amongst the general public. The CIA, for example, is one branch of government thought to use this technique in order to gain its authority over large bodies of people. If it is actually effective is up to public opinion of belief and personal reported experience.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received complaints of a television station using subliminal messages in 1974. This was the first new case since the original in the 1950’s. The FCC responded by issuing a public notice, which stated their official position- “We believe that the use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with the obligations of a [broadcast] licensee, and therefore we take this occasion to make clear that broadcasts employing such techniques are contrary to the public interest. Whether effective or not, such broadcasts clearly are intended to be deceptive.” The United States government has supposedly tried to take steps to protect individuals from unwanted influences relayed by subliminal messages. It has produced regulations to prohibit subliminal messages to advertise consumer products. Such products include malt beverages and distilled spirits.



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Here are some subliminal messages that were caught by viewers during the Aria awards. This video shows you the exact subliminals that were used by companies like KFC at these awards. They also debate if this is illegal. Fascinating stuff.


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The subliminal messages written about in this article refers to psychic phenomenon. Again this is very different than today’s definition but it is interesting nonetheless how often we are finding these references in our subliminal messages research.


The following pages are the substance of an address given to the Society for Psychical Research, under the title, more congenial to its nomenclature, of ” The possible Sources of Subliminal Messages!’

The word “message” is used in the sense specialised in psychic vocabulary, as signifying the perception, by one’s ordinary consciousness, of some memory, sensation, or deduction, of which one has been previously only sub-consciously aware, and which is externalised as a message from one part to another of one’s personality. The former title, not of my own invention, is one which I reject for two reasons. First, the word “subliminal” does not, to my own mind at least, convey the intended image. I can understand a perception being below the floor of my consciousness, but the notion of its being below the threshold, seems as a symbol, unnecessarily imperfect. The word ” message,” though otherwise unobjectionable, has been adopted by the spiritualists, and suggests an association with “Mediums,” and “Controls,” and “Stances,” all entirely remote from my present consideration.”

Interesting use of the term subliminal messages don’t you think?


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The following is from the Federal Communications Commission’s Manual for Broadcasters:

We sometimes receive complaints regarding the alleged use of subliminal techniques in radio and TV programming. Subliminal programming is designed to be perceived on a subconscious level only. Regardless of whether it is effective, the use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with a station’s obligation to serve the public interest because the broadcast is intended to be deceptive. (this is from the FCC manual for broadcasters)

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In our continued subliminal messages research, we found this article. Again this is not what is considered subliminal messages today but it is interesting how this terminology has evolved.

Our Continued Subliminal Messages Research

“Mn. F. W. H. Myers then concluded his address (begun May 29th), on “Problems of Personality,” the substance of which will, it is hoped, appear in our Proceedings. The speaker reviewed the various classes of automatic and subliminal messages in their relation to the primary memory of the automatist.

In the first place, some of these messages, like the “inspirations of genius,” or the brief apparitions which showed no purposive action of their own, seemed to be assumed without any perceptible break iato the superficial chain of memory.

Secondly, in certain cases, a subsidiary or concurrent chain of memory was manifested, as, for instance, in ordinary automatic writing, where the messages written exhibited an intelligence involving memory, but not necessarily interfering with the automatist’s primary intelligence and memory, which might be occupied with other matters while the message was being written.

In the third place, the secondary chain of memory sometimes became sufficiently dominant to alternate with the primary,—as in such cases as those of Mme. B., Felida X., Ansel Bourne, ic.

In the fourth place, there were sometimes indications that a fusion of memories had occurred, or at any rate that the subliminal memory was’ wider in its scope, and represented the individuality more completely than the superliminal.

The question of the various origins of automatic messages was then once more discussed. It was concluded that, while at our present stage of knowledge it was very difficult to distinguish what the subliminal self might have itself acquired through the exercise of clairvoyant or similar powers from what it might have acquired by telepathic impact from other intelligences, yet there was reason to suppose that both these factors must be taken into account. Indeed, the very existence of the clairvoyant powers of the subliminal self indicated a realm of laws under which even direct communication from disearnate intelligences lost much of its antecedent improbability.”


And that concludes the subliminal messages research that was done at that time.

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Subliminal Messages in Advertising

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We stumbled upon a paper on Subliminal Messages in Advertising that we thought you might be interested in.

Title: Subliminal Messages in Advertising.

Authors: Olson, Miles C.

The technique of subliminal information giving has been considerably broadened in recent years so that magazine ads now employ it by carefully hiding images where they are not usually perceived with the conscious eye. In his recent book, “Subliminal Seduction: Ad Media’s Manipulation of a Not So Innocent America,” Wilson B. Key demonstrates that subliminal messages in ads are perceived and do have an impact on attitudes and actions. After conducting his own personal search to find the “hidden persuaders,” the author of this article was convinced that advertisements are full of hidden information, which is usually of a sexual nature. He suggests that it is important that English teachers become aware of this phenomenon, since it is a part of communication. Furthermore, he contends that we cannot accept or reject such information until we become conscious of it and are able to act on it in our normal, rational ways. (LL)

That is just an excerpt from Subliminal Messages in Advertising, as we are working on getting you a full copy.



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