Episode 75: Science Proves Subliminal Tapes Work! Well….not really

MichaelCritical Thinking, Perception, Research and Stats, Social Psychology9 Comments

Do subliminal messages in self-help tapes really work? There actually is some evidence that people can be influenced by subliminal messages. Can your self-esteem be raised with subliminal tapes? Can subliminal persuasion help you lose weight? Are there subliminal messages in Disney files? Are there subliminal messages in advertising that can make you buy certain products? These questions answered once and for all at The Psych Files podcast.



Resources on Subliminal Messages

    • Pratkanis, A.R., Eskenazi, J., Greenwald, A. J. (1994). What You Expect is What You Believe but Not Necessarily What You Get: a Test of the Effectiveness of Subliminal Self-Help Audiotapes, Basic and Applied Social Psychology.
    • Murphy S.T. & Zajonc, R.B. (1993). Affect, cognition, and awareness: affective priming with optimal and suboptimal stimulus exposures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(5), 723-739.
    • Smith, K.H. & Rogers, M. (1994). Effectiveness of subliminal messages in television commercials: Two experiments. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(6), 866-874.
    • Moore, T.E. (1995). Subliminal self?-?help auditory tapes: An empirical test of perceptual consequences. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science,27(1), 9-20.
    • Merikle, P.M. & Skanes, H.E. (1992). Subliminal self?-?help audiotapes: A search for placebo effects. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(5), 772-776.
    • Vokey, J. R. & Read, J. D. (1985). Subliminal messages: Between the devil and the media. American Psychologist, 40(11), 1231-1239.


    • Champion, J. M. & Turner, W.W. (1959). An experimental investigation of subliminal perception. Journal of Applied Psychology, 43(6),382-384.
    • Byrne, D. (1959). The effect of a subliminal food stimulus on verbal responses. Journal of Applied Psychology, 43(4), 249-252.
    • THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE AD CAMPAIGN; Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad
    • Here’s a link to the book that was very useful to me in developing this episode, “Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal” by Timothy J. Lawson:


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9 Comments on “Episode 75: Science Proves Subliminal Tapes Work! Well….not really”

  1. Pingback: Episode 100: Reflections on 100 Episodes of The Psych Files | The Psych Files

  2. Pingback: Why Do You Hate Psychology? | The Psych Files Podcast

  3. Julie: your comment is very timely because I just recorded a video episode (#175) and while I was editing it I thought to myself that the episode really doesn’t have to be video since it’s just me talking so maybe I should get rid of the video part and make it an audio episode.

    I agree that body language and all that are an important part of communication. And now that almost everyone has a video-enabled device that they use for their podcasts I suppose video is a better choice these days than when I started the podcast 5 years ago.

    Okay, you convinced me to keep the next episode as a video episode and do more video in the future. Appreciate the feedback.


  4. Some of your podcasts have your picture while you are talking and some sound only- I like the ones where you can be seen because your physical movements add to the effects of what you are saying. I do not mean this in an unprofessional way, I just think body language plays a part in communication.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Loving the podcasts, listened to the first 75 within the past 2 weeks. Makes for some great driving material.

    I’d love to see you do an episode on priming, how to separate what we know about priming from subliminal hype, etc. For example, Bargh’s famous study where people primed with “old” walked more slowly afterwards, or people primed with “aggressive” were more likely to interrupt a conversation. Most usefully, I think, is the question of whether such priming works when people know that it’s happening (Bargh’s subjects weren’t told beforehand, of course; subliminal tape buyers know exactly what theyr’e getting themselves into)

  6. Hey,
    you were talking about the subliminal study of James Vickery and all the studies that followed that. But you didn’t mention that Vickery confirmed after all the attention to his study, that his study was a hoax. This didn’t made the big news. So, all the following studies were based on a hoax.
    And I always thought that the study with the chinese signs were about priming. So does subliminal belongs to priming or are they just two different things sharing something common?

  7. Hi – love your podcast. I have a couple of questions about episode 75. The students were given subliminal tapes. What is their method of listening to the tapes that makes it subliminal?

    I also wondered if you might know anything about a question I have about affirmations. I have heard that repeating affirmations to oneself (rather than hearing them subliminally) is recognized as an effective part of cognitive behavioral therapy. Now that I have listened to many of your podcasts, I guess I am a more critical thinker! I am wondering if there is any research which supports this. Do you know?

  8. Pingback: SCIENCEPODCASTERS.ORG » What is the Science Show about Subliminal Tapes?

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