Toward the end of the 1950s there was a public panic when it was revealed that advertisers were trying to influence buyer behavior on a subconscious level by planting hidden messages in advertisements and in movies. These messages were called “subliminal suggestions” (from the Latin sub-limen, meaning “below consciousness”).
The idea of using subliminal messages is hardly new.
Third century Indian Yoga master Patanjali taught that thoughts (caused by seeing a symbol, hearing a word, etc.) or any physical act (such as gestures made by another) leave behind impressions (samkara) that subtly (subliminally) influence a person’s future thought and actions.
Subliminal suggestion works in two ways: first by creating an association of on thing with another in a viewer or listener’s mind and, second, by taking advantage of preconceived connections the person has.
To accomplish this, mind-slayers employ a host of words-ploys, evocative symbols, and gestures targeting these subliminal connections.
Madison Avenue fully understands the value of subliminal suggestion. That’s why the Pillsbury Doughboy is modeled after a fetus (backing and giving birth being closely related in women’s mind) and why Joe Camel’s nose is modeled after male genitalia (associating smoking with “manly” virility).
Subliminal suggestion works best when attacking the viewer or listener on an emotional level rather than on a higher reasoning level. Evoking an emotional response via subliminal suggestion is called subception.
The carriers of these subliminal messages can employ any number of words, symbols, or gestures purposely designed to penetrate into a person’s mind castle without his normal conscious “gatekeeper” recognizing them as dangerous and thus turning them away.
Source: “The Power of Suggestion: Subliminal Suggestion,” from The Black Science, by Haha Lung
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