Subliminal advertising is based on the fact that we only recognise a small part,
1/1000th of the information that flows into our brain during the day. If we were
constantly conscious of all the images, smells and sounds that surround us, we couldn't
concentrate on anything properly.
Of course, most of the information and perceptions our brain receives is irrelevant,
so our brain will dump it right away. Some of these perceptions will be stored in
our subconscious memory.
Even though we don't recognise it consciously, our brain is still affected by these
various stimuli. They affect our thoughts, behaviour and decisions without our awareness.
The advertising industry is very eager to benefit from this finding: they are fascinated
about the possibility to influence in the way we think of some products, or what's
most important, our decisions to purchase.
Subliminal means "below threshold". When something is below the threshold of our
senses, for example a chair in a dark room, we
won't recognise it. When the lighting increases enough, we will see the chair - it's
now "above the threshold". But there's a phase when it's too dark for our conscious
mind to see the chair, but our brain may still detect it. The message won't intrude
our conscious mind but stay on the subliminal level.
A perception is considered subliminal if a great majority of the audience can't perceive
An American study shows that the subliminal messages really won't intrude to our
conscious mind, even if they affect our decisions. In the study, people, who were
shown subliminal images of happy faces were willing to pay a higher price of their
drinks than people who were exposed to angry faces. They also drank more. The participants
did not feel more positive or negative after subliminally presented expressions -
the effect was purely subliminal. No wonder that customer service staff everywhere
are told to smile at the customers!