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Subliminal Messages

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Are you sure that you aren’t being subconsciously manipulated into making decisions that you wouldn’t normally make? Are you sure that over the next few days, your purchases of popcorn and Coke will be completely under your conscious control? Are you even sure that I haven’t embedded secret messages into this research paper to manipulate you into giving me an A? If you didn’t consciously perceive “secret messages” but you did perceive them subconsciously, then they would be called subliminal. The word “subliminal” literally means “below the threshold” (Encarta 99). The threshold is the level at which you are aware of stimuli, so if something is below the threshold, or subliminal, you are not consciously aware of it. Therefore, you may be receiving messages and obeying them without even realizing it! What I have set out to prove through my research report is that people are being manipulated by the media through subliminal advertisements. Subliminal advertisements stimulated significant public attention in 1957. It was reported that a motion picture theater in New Jersey had flashed subliminal messages on its movie screen during the showing of the movie Picnic. These messages appeared on the face of the actress Kim Novak every 32 seconds and urged the audience to “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” over a course of six weeks. 49,699 people viewed these subliminal messages. The movie theater reported that its concession sales increased 58%. Some people just dismissed this as a publicity stunt or believed that you can’t be affected by something you can’t perceive. The truth is that nobody has ever been able to reproduce this result. However, this incident caused many people to take interest in the subject of subliminal perception. One such person was Vance Packard who wrote the very popular book, Hidden Persuaders, which appeared in the London Sunday Times as an account of the whole New Jersey ordeal. People who hear of subliminal messages often ask how something that isn’t perceived consciously can be perceived subconsciously. This confused me at first too, but through my research I have come to realize that it is really quite simple. When you are in a room with 50 people that are talking, but you are only conversing with one person, you can still hear all 50 people. You consciously perceive one person’s voice, but those other 49 people’s voices don’t just go in one ear and out the other. You may not realize that you are perceiving those other voices, but you really are. Those other voices would be subliminal. Another example of how something that isn’t perceived consciously but can be perceived subconsciously, is if you were to sit down and just list everything that you’ve seen in the past hour. You would probably come to a large number, but you couldn’t possibly list everything you’ve actually seen. You could just look outside and consciously perceive hundreds of things, but when you really think about it, you probably actually perceived millions if not billions of things. When you look at a car driving down the street, you don’t just see the car, passengers, and the street. You also see every blade of grass lining the street, the little boy playing off in the distance, and the house across the street with the white shutters and shingled roof. Now that I’ve established that there is a conscious and subconscious mind, I will explain both. The conscious mind has the privilege of accepting, rejecting or modifying perceptions. For instance, if the conscious mind listens to someone say that they are stupid, it could accept, reject or modify it. However, if it is the subconscious mind that listens to this statement, then it just accepts it and believes that it is stupid. Ironically, however, the beliefs held in the subconscious are the source of why the conscious accepts, rejects, or modifies the statement. Many advertisers take advantage of this and try to embed subliminal messages into their advertisements. Advertisers’ subliminal messages often concentrate on the taboos of society to stimulate the mind. Such taboos would be sex, which is often the most common focus of advertisers, death, incest, homosexuality, and sometimes even pagan icons. Disney movies have displayed, and have been sued for, embedding subliminal messages. In their movie, The Little Mermaid, they show the male genitalia as a part of the castle. People may think that people were just trying to find perverted things in innocent Disney movies, but apparently it wasn’t innocent enough to keep it on the cover. The newer cover does not display a castle on it. Another subliminal message involving Disney is in the movie Aladdin. Right before he sings the song A Whole New World, Aladdin says, “Take off your clothes” under his breath. My last example of a Disney related incident involving subliminal messages is in the movie The Lion King. When the king lion falls off of the cliff, you can see that the dust around him and the stars in the sky spell out the word “Sex.” There are many subliminal messages in our products today, but one I find most disturbing is the Camel Cigarettes’ advertisement. The Picture on the left shows a man standing proudly with his genitalia erect. The picture on the right shows the camel that is named the “Smooth Character.” If you look at his nose, you will come to realize that it is in fact the male genitalia. (Key xviii) (Key xix) There is proof that shows just how influential these ads were to the marketing of Camel cigarettes. In 1978, there were seven surveys taken by 3,400 smokers between grades seven through twelve in Georgia, Louisiana and Minnesota and it showed that Camels were preferred by less than .05%. However, in 1988, RJR Nabisco launched the “Smooth Character”, a cartoon camel modeled after James Bond and Don Johnson. 5,000 children from California were polled and 22% of girls were smoking Camel cigarettes, and 24% of boys were smoking Camel cigarettes! This was a significant rise from the original .05%! Another study showed that children were as familiar with the “Smooth Character” as Mickey Mouse! Even if the sexual subliminal messages weren’t intended, or effective, it still gives off the subliminal message, “Smoke Camel cigarettes, and you will be cool and attractive!” Both males and females are grossly manipulated by images just like these, which say that if you wear a certain designer’s clothes, or drink a certain soda, or smoke a certain cigarette, that they will be cool and



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