How Subliminal Messages Work


First off, before we get into how they work, lets start with a couple of definitions on a simple level of what subliminal messages actually are:

Urban Dictionary: Anything that sends you a message without your knowledge of it, usually picked up on by your subconscious mind.. [Often] a hidden message or image found in text, music or film.

Wikipedia: Literally [means] “below threshold”, contrary to supraliminal stimuli or “above threshold”, are any sensory stimuli below an individual’s threshold for conscious perception. Visual stimuli may be quickly flashed before an individual can process them, or flashed and then masked, thereby interrupting the processing. Audio stimuli may be played beyond audible volumes, masked by other stimuli, or recorded backwards.

However before we start discussing this in depth, I want to point out that when we talk about subliminal messages here, we are not talking about visual subliminal messages like you hear about in advertising or Disney cartoons (incidentally there are quite a lot of instances of these).

We mean subliminal audio messages for the purpose of personal development. So here is our definition –  a more straight forward definition:

Our Official Definition: A stimulus which is received by your subconscious mind, bypassing your conscious mind. They can be in visual format, i.e. flashed images, but usually for self help purposes, audio messages are used where the message is a positive statement moved to a higher sound frequency to enter your unconscious mind without your awareness.

Now before we get right into the technical insides, if you are brand new to this area then watch this video from Derren Brown which is an example of subliminal messaging being used in a real life scenario… by a master. It gives an insight into how susceptible we are, how open we are to external stimuli and that we can be influenced to an outcome by subtle, even imperceptible cues.

The (Simple) Technical Explanation

Subliminal messages are basically just positive affirmations which have been recorded and then moved to a higher sound frequency. Yes, there are visual and video based subliminal messages as used in advertising, movies, and media, but for all intents and purposes, this is a self improvement information site and the use of subliminal messages is most common within the audio format.

You don’t hear the affirmations as they are at this higher sound frequency, just on the edge of the threshold of conscious human hearing.

They still reach your subconscious mind though, and this is extremely important as it’s actually your subconscious mind that you need to influence in order to change either your behaviors, thoughts, feelings or, in the end – your actions.

How Subliminal Programming Actually Helps

Because they reach your subconscious and not your conscious mind, this means that you can make changes from within without your logical, conscious mind being involved. That means that your conscious mind won’t be able to interfere with the process of positive change.

You see, your conscious mind protects the subconscious from overloading by choosing which out of millions of messages we potentially receive daily through either our own thoughts, advertising, other people or the media, will get into your subconscious mind.

The problem is that most messages that aim to change you are deemed dangerous, as your conscious mind has no way of realizing if they would be helpful or not, just that they would require effort on your part (or rather effort from your subconscious mind) to process, and that they are potentially harmful.

After understanding the fact mentioned above, it is obvious why it is of such great value that subliminal messages get sent to the subconscious mind directly, without all the hassle other messages go through, as thus subliminals are able to influence our mind positively and faster than the majority of other methods of changing ourselves.

The Passive Myth

The common conception of subliminal audio is that you can just listen passively and receive benefit without any further action or steps on your part.

While there have been studies and testimonials to back this up this is a rare occurrence and definitely not the norm.

While you actually can listen to subliminals whenever you desire (well, except while you are driving, operating heavy machinery or doing similar tasks that need your full undivided attention), but be aware that subliminal audio does have a tendency to relax you.

But, it is not enough to just listen to subliminal audio and think that everything will magically be fixed. You need to really want to achieve your goal, the goal that made you pick up subliminal audio messages in the first place, and go ahead and do all that is necessary in order to achieve it, while subliminals will be the aid, the extra push that you need and one that will help you reach new heights, but only if you really give it your best.

Type Of Messages

The types of messages that may be sent to your subconscious vary greatly depending on what area of your life you want to focus on and solve problems in, but here are a few random examples:

  • I fall asleep easily and naturally
  • I am relaxed at all times
  • I am an inventive businessman
  • My confidence in myself is increasing daily
  • My diet is nutritious, tasty and healthy
  • My emotions always have a positive focus
  • I easily attract my luck
  • I easily overcome all addictions
  • I am charismatic and people love to be around me

Negative vs positive messages – usually when we talk of subliminal messages, especially for self help, we talk of positive messages that will help you improve your life.

However, according to Professor Nilli Lavie and his study, it seems that most people are more attuned to negative subliminal words than to positive ones. Namely, he ran a series of either positive words (like peace or flower), neutral words (like box or cow), and negative words (like agony or fear) subliminally on a screen, and those words were shown for a fraction of a second, 1/50th part of a second to be exact, to a group of 50 participants.

The words flashed on the screen so fast, that participants had no way of consciously knowing which word they saw.

When Prof. Lavie asked participants after every word if the word was positive, neutral or negative, and how confident they were of their choices, most people were confident when they saw a negative word, much more so than when they saw either a positive or neutral one.

It is simple – as we are attuned to negativity more so than positivity, why not use subliminal audio on a constant basis to change that part of ourselves and to become more prone to recognize the positives in our lives first and certainly before any negatives.

More In-Depth Explanations

Take a look through our deeper categories for how subliminal programming can help more specific areas of your personal development, and how you can use them to benefit you:

Life Success

Weight Loss
Law of Attraction
Money Mastery
Personal Development
Social Skills
Mental Health
Sleep and Relaxation
Brain Training
Extreme Sports
Fitness And Bodybuilding
Martial Arts
Success With Women
Success With Men

External References

Key to subliminal messaging is to keep it negative, study shows  - Official journal entry of the study into negative vs positive subliminal messaging by Nilli Lavie. Here is a direct quote: "We have shown that people can perceive the emotional value of subliminal messages and have demonstrated conclusively that people are much more attuned to negative words".
Negative subliminal messages work - An article on BBC news with a little positive and negative discussion about the Welcome funded UCL subliminal research study above by Nilli Lavie.
Does Subliminal Messaging Work? A New Film Investigates - A discussion of documentary (and interview with the filmmaker) "Programming the Nation" which follows Jeff Warrick as he embarked on a seven-year investigation into the ways a large number of media and organizations incorporate hidden messages to prey on our subconscious.
The possibilities of subliminal messages - An article on Science Daily about "Twilight Learning" - the concept of sending subtle messages into the mind as we transition from wakefulness to sleep as our brain rhythms change.
Subliminal Messages Work - Roger Dooley from NeuroMarketing discusses research from the University of Central London which claims that subliminal information can attract the brain's attention on a subconscious level. - A small unbiased library of information, built by students.
History of Subliminal Perception - A resource created by some undergraduate students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor detailing the history of and some studies into subliminal perception. - A large site with a 5 year history with a wide range of subliminal cds and mp3s as well as information on how their recordings work and lists of research studies.

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