is not possible to resist that which cannot be detected”
this chapter we examine subliminal technologies both conventional and
novel, covering the major senses and also the possibility of direct
induction of subliminal imagery or commands using direct
electromagnetic stimulation of the brain.
means below the threshold of conscious perception. That is, a
subliminal stimulus is inadequate to produce conscious awareness but
is still able to evoke some kind of a response. However, subliminals
do not work as popularly assumed in the story, originating in the
1950s, about a cinema flashing “Coke” on the screen
during a movie and then having the patrons rush to buy it during the
interval. That is an urban myth, but one which has been quite
influential in having such crude advertising attempts banned by law
in many nations. It has been shown that such subliminal advertising
does not work. People are not somehow forced to go and order a drink
they do not like , want or need. However, it is effective if the
viewer is thirsty and is in two minds which particular drink to opt
for. Despite this some movies and TV advertising do use very similar
techniques. For example, there is a subliminal frame in the original
film version of “The Exorcist”
where a picture of an African death mask is flashed on screen during
one scene. It's not quite subliminal since if you know when to look
you can see it clearly, and even if you are not expecting it the
movie looks like it jumps at that point. Whether it is effective or
not is a matter of dispute, but just knowing that it was being used
in such a notorious movie at the time no doubt enhanced its
credibility even more. It is still one of the best (scary) movies to
deal with the supernatural and demonic possession. Another much more
common example is pseudo-subliminal cuts occurring in trailers for
movies and TV programs, especially those that are action-adventure
oriented. Action scenes are cut from one to another so fast that only
an impression of breathless excitement remains for most people. There
has been a definite trend over the past few years of making the cuts
shorter and shorter, moving it into the kind of time frame that would
bring it into the category of subliminal advertising. How far this
trend will go remains to be seen.
The most common and effective
subliminal advertising technique used in the mass media today is
product placement where particular brands are shown and
associated with particular scenes and characters. Next time you watch
a movie, see what brands the main character eats, drinks, wears,
drives and so forth. Also check out what is being advertised as part
of the background scenery, and remember that nothing in a movie is
there by accident, except in the most incompetent, cheap or
amateurish productions. It is probably worth pointing out that any
production that uses a branded item in a negative context might run
into substantial legal problems, especially in the USA. It is
unlikely you will ever see the evil giggling psycho-rapist sipping
from his can of P***i as he cuts the throat of his latest victim.
Unless, of course, such a placement was paid for by the opposition!
To date companies have shied away from such subliminal negative
campaigning, but it’s a thought…
Before we continue
into more detailed and esoteric subliminal technology it is worth
pointing out just how sensitive we are to subliminal information
acquisition, if not persuasion. Indeed, sometimes people can be so
good at picking up and processing the tiniest cues that it seems Psi
phenomena are a more plausible explanation. The famous hypnotherapist
Milton Erickson provided an example of this. He described an
experiment with hearing-impaired lip-readers where he discovered that
they actually read a much richer spectrum of cues than simply the
lips. The set-up was as follows: The lip-reading subjects sat with
their backs to a blackboard on which there were various geometric
designs. The designs were then obscured with sheets of paper. In
front of the lip readers, and facing the blackboard, sat a group of
normal participants who were instructed to look at the blackboard and
say and do nothing. An assistant then removed the paper covering the
geometric symbols, one at a time, and the lip-readers were instructed
to write down anything that they read from the participants in front
of them who were observing the geometric figures. They were able to
“read” the names of the geometric figures apparently from
their partner's body language with varying degrees of accuracy. One
subject, a diagnosed paranoid psychotic who claimed to hear other
people's thoughts, was reported as having perfect accuracy. Erickson
applied this insight to his hypnotic technique by recognising the
significance of messages he himself did not realize he was sending.
It is something all magicians should bear in mind. Anyway, the beauty
of the above experiment is that, unlike Psi experiments, nobody can
accuse the subjects of cheating by reading subliminal
Naturally, there has been considerable research done on
subliminal perception and especially on how to use it as a medium of
influence for purposes ranging from advertising to the possible
military applications of remote hypnosis. As a result it has been
discovered that effective messaging depends upon combining a number
of factors. These are:
goal must be clearly defined.
message should be simple, ideally just one word.
should be in the first person, for example, “I am” not
goal must be communicated as if it had already happened, or is in
the process of happening.
suggestion should be phrased at least three different ways.
emotions should be attached to the completion of the goal.
above should be done without distracting the conscious mind.
goal should be achieved rapidly since subliminal influence weakens
message should be phrased in positive terms and reversed negatives
should not be used.
messages are more likely to be effective than positive ones. That
is, words like “danger”, “fear”, “agony”,
“murder” are more likely to influence than words like
“peace”, “love”, “cheerful” or
Agents one is trying to contact within the unconscious mind are less
responsive to commands than suggestions and descriptions. The
pathways being used are not too intelligent either, so there is a
possibility that reversed negatives can be seen as positives. For
example, if you are told:
not think of a black cat” the
of a black cat” lies
embedded in the statement and can also be acted upon.
was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 1970s
from a study of “excellence”. The subjects chosen for study were
in the field of psychology and psychiatry and included Virginia
of Family Therapy),
and Milton Erickson the famous hypnotist who we have already
encountered. They analysed writings and tape-recordings to discover
what accounted for the successful results these people were getting.
By mimicking the language patterns, and testing them on a group of
students they achieved similar powerful results to those they were
studying. The definitive work by Bandler and Grinder was entitled:
Structure of Magic”
and appeared in two volumes in 1975CE.
Anyone with a hard science
background first approaching NLP
has an immediate problem. It is that there is no underlying theory of
mind from which the techniques can be deduced. Rather, as Bandler put
is an attitude and a methodology that leaves behind a trail of
techniques”. In other words, it is a behavioral engineering
approach to effecting mental state change, and anything that works
within the wide remit NLP sets itself gets
thrown into the mix. However, the basic approach is quite simple, as
are a number of the more useful techniques.
in the above description is one of intense curiosity about the mind
and an experimental approach where there is no failure, only
feedback. The “methodology” is that of modeling
– that is, copying and mimicking how something works until you can
get it to work yourself.
The pragmatic model of “thinking” is
based around the notion of information processing and storage as
being a reproduction sensory input. The Representational
Systems, or VAK
systems, stand for the major modalities
by which we represent information. These are:
(V) – Pictures and images...
Do you get the picture? See
how things are?
(A) – Sounds, noises, tones, volume...
Do you often tell
yourself that you shouldn't do this? I hear that you do...
(K) – Touch, sensations, pressure temperature...
grasp what I am saying? Do you have a grip on reality?
Would you like a taste of success?
Sweet, isn't it...
lists of features associated with each of the modalities are referred
to as submodalities.
major premises of NLP are that by changing the features of the
representations, rather than the content, we can change our responses
and emotions. One of the examples often offered to illustrate the
point is to visualize some pleasant experience in our past, maybe
like watching it on a screen, then to imagine the picture expanded.
How does it affect the feelings associated with it when you do that?
And then do the opposite, shrink it down to a minuscule image and
examine your emotions once more. What about moving between black and
white and color? Or moving the image nearer to us, or further away?
For most people just altering the representation while keeping the
content constant will alter the degree of emotional response. A
similar situation occurs with bad memories and experiences and this
is, of course, a starting point for some types of NLP
NLP also divides into two general approaches
referred to as the Meta Model and the Milton
Model. A key difference between them is that the former deals with
specifics and the latter generalizations. Specifics tend to bring
people out of a trance state, and generalities do the opposite. This
is not too much of a revelation if you consider the sleep inducing
boredom of a politicians speech versus one where there is a lot of
very specific detail one can grasp (tactile modality!). In NLP the
process of becoming more specific is called chunking
down and becoming more general is