The question of “Do subliminal messages actually work?” is a golden one. In fact, long before I decided to write this article, (and before I decided to create my Personal Law Program) it was one that I asked myself (and Google) many times.
In writing this article it’s my intention to be as frank and honest as possible, while providing you with the ability to come to your own conclusion. If you are a subscriber to my emails, or a purchaser of my products I would guess that you are already aware of my advocacy of thinking for yourself and running everything (including what I say) through your own bullshit radar before subscribing to any opinion or belief.
Thus being said I will make myself clear and state upfront that I do make and sell subliminal products, there are links to these on this page, and, being a decent human being (if I dare say so myself) I would not be making and selling these products if I wasn’t under the personal opinion that they work.
So understand that I do have my own biases that I am attempting not to heavily influence this article.
So again, do subliminals actually work?
Let’s first clarify that we are talking about subliminal messages under the context of self-help or self-development. I doubt that you have come to this page wondering if the movie theater can make you buy more popcorn using visual subliminal messages, or if Nestle can get you to buy their products by embedding sexual innuendo into their packaging art.
Before we can really get into this, it is important for you to first understand a few things: what exactly a subliminal message is, and that there are more than one type of subliminal messages that different manufacturers and product creator use in their products.
What is a subliminal message?
To keep it simple, subliminal means below the threshold of conscious awareness. In other words, you cannot consciously perceive it. This is not to be confused with something that you can be aware of if you pay attention (like music playing in the backgroud, or even messages that you can still perceive, but are more quiet or subtle).
Though I am more in the business of auditory subliminals, this also refers to the other senses. The other more common sense being considered in subliminal messaging being sight.
So a few common examples of subliminal messages:
- Images being cut into the frame of a show, film, or commercial that flash so quickly that your conscious mind cannot see them, even if it is looking for it.
- Audio messages that you cannot hear because they are masked in a louder audio, or that you cannot understand because they are in some way scrambled or coded.
Sometimes subliminal messages are confused with what would technically be called Supraliminal messages. The difference in the two is that you can actually detect a supraliminal message if you are looking (or listening) for it. Like the example above of music playing in the background.
Another good example of a supraliminal message (that is often given the misnomer of being a subliminal message) is an affirmation flashed on the screen in a self-help video quickly, but not so fast that you can’t read it.
Different types of subliminals
Again, subliminals extend to the full range of our senses, but for the purpose of this article we are focusing on auditory subliminals in the context of how they could help you in developing yourself, whether you want to quite smoking, lose weight, attract a lover, or make more money.
When we look at the market for subliminal self-help products, we see that there are differing opinions on which method works better, or even if some of these methods work at all. I have my own opinions on this (which will be shared later on) but again, I encourage you to decide for yourself which methods (if any) have any merit.
Silent subliminals are audio messages that are recorded, then converted into a very high frequency range- one that is not audible to the conscious listener, but is purported to still vibrate the tympanic membrane of the ear.
Subaudible subliminals are audio messages that are masked within a louder audio, like a music or nature soundtrack. You cannot hear them while listening to the audio, but if you were to turn down the soundtrack you would.
Backwards Speech or Backmasking
Audio messages are recorded, then reversed under the context that the subconscious mind has the ability to understand reversed speech.
Sped up Messages
The messages are sped up to the point that they are so fast they are incomprehensible to the conscious mind.
Scientific limitations in verifying whether subliminals work
There are two big turds in the scientific punch-bowl when it comes to proving whether subliminal messages work or not.
The first is that there are several different things being called “subliminals”. As of now, the few scientific studies that have been done to verify whether subliminal messages actually work have failed to specify this in a means that truly satisfies the terms of the scientific method.
An example of this can be found here: Scientific study on subliminals.
Kudos to these people for being willing to explore this, but if you read through the report, you notice not once is it mentioned what kind of subliminal message is being used in these recordings, nor does it specify the instructions given by the creators of these audios. It simply says that the instructions were followed.
We see this issue in all kinds of “scientific studies” done on more experimental or “against the grain” types of things, and unfortunately it is only inevitable when a particular issue or subject is being “studied” by someone who either wishes to prove it nonsense or doesn’t understand it very well.
A good example would be all the studies that have been done on alternative medicines or herbal formulas. Rarely is the source or quality of the substance verified or compared to other sources or qualities, nor is the dosage specified or compared with other dosages before providing a “scientific” ruling on whether or not it is effective. This is not to mention several other variables that could fall into play like whether it is taken on an empty stomach, with or without fats, carbs, protens, etc.
This is like saying that carbs are bad for you, without taking into account how many grams of carbohydrates are consumed in a given period of time, where the carbs came from, whether they were consumed in conjunction with fats or protein, and what the insulin sensitivity of the persons consuming them were.
The other elephant in the room when it comes to a scientific attempt at verifying whether subliminals work or not is the largely subjective nature of the results that these types of product are aiming to achieve.
I’ve mentioned this before when talking about brainwave entrainment products. There are some variables that you can measure, like brainwaves, beneficial hormone production, etc., but can you really measure something like feeling more confident or having more empowering beliefs about money?
When it comes to subliminals, we would hope that we could at least see the results, but these results may be different as per the individual. Even something like better money beliefs could take differing amounts of time to fully manifest, and this could conflict with other beliefs one might have that could either fuel one’s attempts to grow their prosperity or hinder them.
One last consideration in attempting to scientifically verify the efficacy of subliminal messages is the quality of the messages themselves. This is a rabbit hole in and of itself. Just like plain old affirmations, we could argue several things like whether it is more effective to say “I am now making one hundred thousand dollars per year” or “I am now ready to take conscious daily effort to achieve my financial goals”. There is a wide range of differing opinions and perspectives on what messages are more effective when delivered to the mind, and what spurs the fastest or most powerful results.
Conflicting and Supporting Scientific Evidence
Now that I’ve given my grain (or tablespoon) of salt on the subject of scientific research, there are a few studies that are worth noting:
In 1980 there was a study that gave some conclusive evidence that perhaps there may be something to subliminal messages in general (though not specific to self-help)
In 2006 there was a study done that seemed to prove that subliminals could influence someone to choose the Lipton brand over other beverage options after being fed the subliminal message “Lipton Ice” beforehand.
And, as I mentioned above, there was a study done in 1991 showing that subliminal messages did not work in self-help tapes, but that the tapes were still effective because of the placebo effect.
One person that I find of particular interest in this subject is Eldon Taylor, a man who has done extensive research and experimentation on this subject for several decades now. You can check out a few of the several research studies he has done here:
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the link for an excellent article on this same subject by Nick Kolenda. This article is very informative, shares more scientific references, and covers the topic in a slightly different way than this one has.
What do I think?
I thought you’d never ask! As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I do create and sell subliminal audios on this website, so of course you can guess that I believe they work. And if you know me, you’ll also be able to guess that I believe a large majority of the articles you will read about the subject are heavily influenced by people’s desire to sell you something.
Just like the ongoing issue of binaural beats vs isochronic tones, any creator of a subliminal product that uses one method will tend to bash the other as a means of making them stand out as better or more effective.
To keep my opinions on this as concise as possible, I do believe that when we look at all the evidence we have on the subject, we can conclude that there is something to subliminal messages. It is clear to me that we have some conclusive evidence that subliminals can most heavily influence the mind under one specific condition: The person wants to be influenced, or the person wants the result, product, or thing that the subliminal message is promoting. I think that shines pretty well on the idea of using subliminal technology for self-development.
But I do also think that the method of delivery of these subliminal messages is absolutely important, and likely makes the difference between the product being completely ineffective, or absolutely useful:
I am personally very skeptical about silent subliminals. I do not know that a verbal message turned up to a frequency so high that you can’t even hear it will make it through a vibration in your ear to being translated back into whatever the intended message is. I would be more accepting of the idea if the frequency range was still somewhere in the audible range, but I do not see the idea that our brain can translate an incredibly subtle vibration from an inaudible sound frequency into a cohesive message convincing.
I have yet to see any specific research or scientific evidence at all that proves this type of subliminal delivery effective. The only thing I’ve seen in this regard are the claims on Holosync’s website (you can see them by clicking here) that appear to be false and/or misleading. You will also notice that their website does not make it easy to find specific details on their “autofonix” technology either.
(I would recommend checking out this forum thread, created by someone who attempted to verify the legitimacy of Holosync’s claims on the subliminal messages they use in their audios, only to find that their “Doctor” mentioned does not exist where they say he does, and neither does the department they mention him working in.)
The subliminals that I use in my Personal Law and Sleep Well Live Well programs are backwards speech. Now when I first read about the idea that the subconscious mind could hear backwards speech and internally understand it, I first thought it was very far-out and potentially a load of crap. What has changed my initial impression was first my contact with the work of Eldon Taylor, and later, my own personal experiences in using backwards speech subliminals.
My decision to use this method of delivery for subliminals has only been reinforced by the positive reviews I have received from those who have used these products since releasing them on the market.
One thing I do believe is critical is that the conscious mind is continually reminded of what its goals are in relation to the subliminal messages. When you bring the conscious mind into a synergy with the subconscious mind you form a level of congruence, where the brain is experiencing a consistency between what the subconscious mind and the conscious mind are doing. For this reason, I include a track of the same messages as audible affirmations in my Personal Law Program, meant to be listened to once daily.
If you add positive affirmative action to all this, you are really maximizing your results!
Of course I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on this, or any sources that you’ve come across that are worth checking out, so don’t hesitate to leave us all a comment below so we can learn from you!