Re: Subliminal advertising

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu Apr 18 2002 - 15:18:06 BST

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    From: Bill Spight <>
    Subject: Re: Subliminal advertising
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    Dear Richard and Wade,

    > If you think "subliminal" means "invisible" you are right... without
    > reaching your senses nothing can have an effect. But that's not what the
    > word means. Subliminal means beneath the level of conscious awareness. There
    > are plenty of such phenomena, both natural and manufactured. There's an air
    > compressor across the street from my apartment. Usually I don't notice when
    > it's on but when it shuts off I notice a feeling of relief. Even some
    > incidental music in movies could be said to be subliminal, yet composed to
    > produce an effect. I think we agree on this subject except perhaps you don't
    > have a distinction between conscious awareness and unconscious perception. I
    > think such a distinction is real and useful.

    In advertising, the term is used quite loosely. Often it seems to be
    used for "symbolic", or "unattended to".

    Wade, there is a fact <g> called the Poetzl Effect, discovered in the
    1920s. If you show people a picture and ask them to describe it, there
    is a high probability that elements of the picture that they did *not*
    describe will appear in their dreams in the next day or two.
    Technically, those elements are not subliminal, but they are unattended
    to. The Poetzl Effect may be at work in advertising. Elements in an add
    that are outside of its focus may remain in our consciousness for a
    while (though unattended to). If these elements are sexually suggestive
    in a vague sense, we may feel sexier for a while than we otherwise would
    have. I doubt if that has anything to do with whether we buy the
    product, though. ;-)

    One of the neatest subliminal experiments I know of had subjects watch
    something on a screen. From time to time a noxious stimulus was flashed
    briefly (for less than 1/20 sec.) on either the right or left side of
    the screen. Nobody reported seeing these images, but they turned their
    eyes away from them. They perceived them, but subliminally.



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