Subliminal Influence (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The effects of stimuli that are so weak the receiver is unaware of their presence.
The term subliminal is derived from the Latin words sub (below) and limen (threshold). The threshold, in this case, is the threshold of conscious awareness. Can we be influenced by stimuli that are so faint or brief that we are unaware of their presence? In other words, can people be affected by invisible stimuli? This controversial notion has intrigued scientists and the public for decades. A public relations stunt in 1957 triggered widespread concern that consumers were being induced to "eat popcorn" and "drink cola" by means of subliminal messages flashed onto a movie screen. Although there was never any good evidence that this procedure actually worked, the possibility of such "mind control" caused considerable alarm.
Careful laboratory research has explored the extent to which subliminal stimulation can affect our behavior. The best evidence for subliminal perception comes from studies on semantic priming. In a priming task, the viewer's task is to decide whether or not a presented letter string (the target) is a word or not. The task is not difficult. If the target is a legitimate word (e.g., DOCTOR), the respondent pushes the "yes" button. If it isn't a word (e.g., TORCOD), he pushes the "no" button. Of special interest is...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!