No longer is the debate centered on the existence of subliminal communication, but on why it works and how it is best induced.
Due to the misunderstood nature of the Placebo effect, a handful of alternative therapies still exist and remain very popular, blissfully trading on the Placebo Effect, with no scientific evidence to support their use. The purpose of the subliminal research from that moment on was to show that subliminal self-help is not one of them.
Enter the most critically acclaimed series of subliminal messaging experiments, loosely referred to as the ‘symbiotic/oneness fantasies’. This line of research demonstrated that subliminal messaging could reduce anxiety levels (Talbot, Duberstein & Scott, 1991; Malik, Krasney, Aldworth & Ladd, 1996). They were proved subliminal suggestions and measured change occurring at a very deep level. This built on previous research concerning the potential for the treatment for smoking cessation (Palmatier & Bornstein, 1980) and Schizophrenia (Kaplan, Thornton & Silverman, 1985). Subliminal messaging wasn’t just about priming a simple set of superficial behaviours or skills.
So these studies, and others like them, were surely impressive. They could explain that (once the Placebo Effect is accounted for) subliminal messaging was associated with the desired result. They showed it worked but they could not explain or show how. What was required was convincing evidence that there was truly a clear divide between the conscious and unconscious and that it was this which was exploited by subliminal messaging.
Without the ‘how’ they lacked the full picture to end debate with credibility.
Researchers were now assured that messages can be received by the brain, if only as signals devoid of interpretation.
This research proved that the messages received subliminally were sent to the appropriate part of the brain. With credit to fMRI, it was ‘so far so good’ for the case of subliminal self-help messaging but there were still missing pieces to the argument. It was still not known how meaningful this was.
That is, from MRI studies we were unable to say whether the words used in messages, were interpreted and processed as some derivative of language in the brain.
To date, it was shown that subliminal messages are received and are processed in the brain. It was still not properly demonstrated that these thoughts had influence on the individual. Alas, one final cornerstone of this research was missing. It came only very recently.
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