History of subliminal messages dates back to the year 1897 when Dr. E.W. Scripture, the then director of Yale Psychology laboratory, published ‘The New Psychology’ describing their basic principles.
The work proceeded further and in the year 1900 an American psychologist named Knight Dunlap experimented with a few subjects asking them to judge the lengths of two lines with pointed arrows at both ends creating an illusion of different lengths, as he flashed a shadow that the conscious awareness was not able to perceive. It was found that the shadow appeared to make their judgments influenced by its subliminal occurrence.
Another American psychologist Harry Levi Hollingworth claimed that such subliminal effects could very well be used in advertisements with a purpose to influence the audience in a way that the advertisers wished them to be.
During the Second World War the much talked-about instrument named tachistoscope was introduced. It was an instrument which projected pictures for such short durations of time as was insufficient to make their imprint as a conscious perception in the mind. Its purpose was to train soldiers in increasing their sensitivity of recognizing enemy airplanes. The instrument is still in use, though for a different purpose of increasing reading speed and testing eyesight.
In 1957 came the historical experiment using a tachistoscope flashing the words “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Hungry? Eat popcorn” beyond conscious perception for 1/3000 of a second at five-second intervals on a movie screen by a market researcher named James Vicary, which resulted in the increased sale for the two items by 18.1% and 57.8% respectively.
Though later Vicary confessed he had manipulated results, yet by then a few other similar experiments had confirmed the real increase in such subliminal sales.
There was a public outcry and such subliminal tactics faced a ban in the UK, Australia and the US.
In 1973 subliminal advertising got banned in Canada also.
Things creating the history of subliminal messages kept going swinging between apprehension and rejection until 2007, when on the 50th anniversary of James Vicary’s original experiment 1400 delegates were exposed to 30 subliminal cuts over a 90-second period. Later when they were asked to make a choice out of the two fictional brands named Delta and Theta, 81% chose Delta; which was the one that the subliminal cuts had suggested to them in the 90-second exposure subliminally.
Even today after 113 years of the history of subliminal messages elapsed, the subliminal phenomenon has not been able to get the same recognition that hypnosis was able to get after around the same number of years from its inception in 1770 by Dr. Franz Mesmer with the name of “animal magnetism” or “mesmerism” when the common public realized its effects on perception and action of its individuals.
Subliminal phenomenon is passing through the same cross-roads today, where public including you and me will have to ascertain whether it really works beyond all doubt like hypnosis or not.
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