The Effects of Subliminal Advertisements: Does it really work?

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Introduction

Subliminal advertising has been a controversial topic since the year 1956 when James Vicary did the first experimental test on subliminal persuasion at Fort Lee, New Jersey’s movie theatre. Vicary hypothesized that if messages such as “Drink Coca Cola” and “Eat Popcorn” were to be flashed quickly onto the screen at a subconscious level, the customers would feel inclined to buy those products; Vicary had claimed that he had an increase in sales for both Coca Cola and popcorn by 18.1% and 57.7% respectively (Karremans et al., p.792). Although Vicary had later admitted to making up his results, and the fact that researchers had failed numerous times to replicate his findings, people continued to be interested in subliminal messaging and its effects.

Perhaps Vicary’s results are not as far-fetched as one is led to believe; the first experiment by Karremans et al. (2006) shows some evidence to support the claim that subliminal messaging works to a certain degree (Bermeitinger et al., p.320). Participants were subliminally primed with the words “Lipton Ice” or a control word and self-reported the level of thirst they experienced at the time. According to the results, there was a positive correlation between thirst and correctly choosing a Lipton Ice beverage over two other choices (Karremans et al., 2006). We can conclude by looking at the results, that participants who have a motivation or drive are more likely to perceive the primed message. Though their results showed that subliminal messages have some effect on our sub-conscious, it does not however show a cause and effect. We cannot rule out some of the limitations that this study holds on the results; participants can: wrongfully complete the self-report on their l...

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