This is a topic the is almost specific to attention students, and one the is ripe for discussion in an introductory psychology class, because the reality behind the claim is complicated. Conversation of this myth gives rich avenues to incorporate topics throughout research methods, memory, cognition, sensation and also perception, and also social psychology. The is relevant to students’ daily lives and also provides methods to discuss used research in society psychology, behavioral economics, and also marketing. This unit is structured to get students to think critically around the claim, the type of proof that would assistance or refute it, and the underlying mental mechanisms that would be vital for the insurance claim to it is in true.

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Note that many scholars (most freshly Bargh, 2016) have actually highlighted the difference between (a) being unaware that stimuli being current at all (e.g., those gift subliminally) and (b) gift unaware the the impacts of stimuli. In numerous priming studies, for example, individuals are consciously conscious of the prime, yet are however unaware the the means in i beg your pardon the prime affects their subsequent cognition, affect, or behavior. Bargh and others argue that this last unawareness still represents “unconscious” influence of the priming stimuli. Students room unlikely to do this difference early on and also are likely rather to be concentrated on sensationalized examples of important subliminal influence. However, instructors have to be conscious of and prepared to comment on this distinction.

Excellent sources for instructors to use in preparing for this unit include:

• Nick Kolenda’s website, which offers clear, evidence-based explanations of appropriate phenomena:

• An obtainable review of appropriate research: Bargh, J. A. (2016). Awareness that the prime versus awareness that its influence: effects for real-world limit of unconscious higher mental processes. Current Opinion in Psychology, 12, 49 – 52. DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.05.006

PRIOR come DAY 1Ask students what they’ve heard about subliminal perception and subliminal persuasion. In ~ this point, don’t distinguish in between perception and also persuasion; simply elicit indigenous students whatever they’ve heard. Instances students could generate and/or that you can ask around include subliminal messages in:

• proclaiming designed to get human being to walk buy products;

• popular films; and

• songs

Tell students the in the next unit, you will be experimenting questions about what subliminal affect is, if and also how it can be studied scientifically, and the level to i beg your pardon we recognize the answer to questions about whether subliminal affect is real. Phone call students that, together homework, lock should discover examples that attempts at subliminal influence. Countless of these may have been mentioned currently – the students’ task is to try to discover actual instances of songs, video clip clips, images, and also so on. Likewise ask student to read (or review) an easy information (in the textbook or elsewhere) on the differences between sensation and perception, top-down versus bottom-up processing, and also automatic versus effortful or managed processing.


Goals: To assist students failure the claim that we can be influenced subliminally and to begin critically reasoning through evidence about the possibility of subliminal perception.

Have student share several of their examples of attempts at subliminal influence; relying on your class size, this might be done in small groups or together a whole class activity. Because that each example, ask students the following:

• What is the subliminal message? (e.g., a details word, phrase, or image)

• What sensory modality(ies) are connected (sight, sound, etc.)?

• presume the blog post is real / intentional, what is the goal of the message? (e.g., to buy a details product)

Highlight for students the variety of methods in i m sorry so-called subliminal influence is gift attempted in your examples, and also ask lock to consider what would need to occur for this influence to succeed. Use this discussion to guide students towards the complying with framework:

1. That would need to be feasible to perceive stimuli outside of awareness.

2. Together perception would have to be qualified of influencing thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors.

Explain the you will spend the rest of the class session tackling this very first claim, i.e., that it is possible to perceive stimuli exterior of mindful awareness — or, following Bargh’s (2016) difference — that it is possible for our thoughts, feelings, and/or actions to be influenced by stimuli there is no our awareness.

Guide students v an expedition of the adhering to questions:

1. Based upon what us know around how sensation and also perception work in humans, is there any kind of reason to think that it is feasible to consciousness stimuli that are exterior of mindful awareness (or come be influenced by stimuli there is no our awareness)?

2. If the answer to inquiry 1 is yes, exactly how would us know?

The concepts listed below can every be used to assist students answer these questions:

• Iconic and echoic memory— Sperling’s (1963) classic studies showing that participants can not recall summary flashed photos (grids of letter or numbers) in their entirety, however could recall piece of the images when instantly cued come a certain line of the grid. This demonstrated that participants sensed (and subsequently perceived) the image, but could no recall it entirely due to the fact that it decayed out of above memory also quickly. This deserve to be offered as simple evidence that human being can feeling and, at least for a fleeting moment, perceive summary flashed images.

• Top-down processing— Culture, experience, and also expectations all affect our late of stimuli, particularly ambiguous stimuli. This handling occurs automatically and outside of mindful awareness, demonstrating the prior influences have the right to indeed affect perception there is no our conscious awareness.

–This can be a good place to comment on back-masking in tune lyrics. The website offers several instances of clips from popular songs that deserve to be play backwards and forwards.Typically, students can not hear noþeles understandable in the behind lyrics, until told what to listen for. Suddenly, the “hidden message” seems clear. This procedure create a memorable and relevant demonstration of how expectations influence perception.

• Schemas and also schematic processing— Schematic handling exemplifies top-down processing. You can use a standard demonstration in which you current a line drawing. Before showing it, tell half the class they are about to see a photo of a trained seal act, and also tell the other students the they are about to watch a snapshot of a costume ball.

Here is the drawing:


Here are some standard instructions:

Group A: You are going to look summary at a picture and climate answer some questions around it. The picture is a rough sketch of a poster for a trained seal act. Execute not dwell on the picture. Look in ~ it just long enough to “take it all in” once. ~ that, you will answer yes or no come a series of questions.

Group B: You room going to look summary at a snapshot and then answer part questions around it. The picture is a rough map out of a poster because that a costume ball. Perform not dwell ~ above the picture. Look in ~ it just long enough to “take it all in” once. After that, you will certainly answer correct or no come a series of questions.

Then show the drawing and ask this questions around it:

In the snapshot was there:1. An automobile? ________2. A man?________3. A woman?________4. A child?________5. An animal?________6. A whip? ________7. A sword?________8. A masculine hat?________9. A ball?________10. A fish?________

The schema (circus plot or costume ball) affects how students consciousness the subsequent image. Although the schematic framework was no presented outside conscious awareness, the impact of the framing on subsequent perception nevertheless happens automatically, without conscious control (cf. Bargh, 2016).

Priming is closely related to top-down processing and also schematic processing. There room many an excellent examples the priming, such as having students turning back words. Pass out scrambles (e.g., efal) are an ext likely to be unscrambled together leaf 보다 as flea after being primed through plants / flowers.

• dispersing activation or semantic network models that memory— Reaction time work rely on dispersing activation or semantic network models that memory: reaction time are much shorter for closely linked concepts. Priming tasks and schematic processing likewise relate to this models that memory, in that a freshly activated principle spreads activation to very closely related concepts, making them temporarily more accessible and also thus temporarily an ext likely to influence cognition, affect, or behavior.

Depending top top variables such together your course size and also structure, and also students’ prior understanding (including even if it is you have already gone over any type of of the concepts above in various other units), there room several alternatives for this discussion.

Here space three possibilities:

1. Existing mini-lectures on some or all of the concepts over and climate ask students how an expertise of those ideas helps price the questions of even if it is it is feasible to perceive stimuli exterior of awareness and also how we would understand if such perception to be happening.— As described above, there room a variety of excellent demonstrations of countless of these concepts that might be provided to assist students suffer priming effects, schematic processing, etc. After every demonstration, communicate students in thinking around the extent to i beg your pardon the phenomenon they proficient is relevant to understanding subliminal perception.

2. Turning back the order of the inquiries and an initial have students derive a straightforward paradigm that would certainly be needed to develop (a) the the observer was not consciously aware of the economic stimulation or the effects and also (b) the the stimulus was nevertheless perceived or affected perception. Elicit from students a an easy paradigm such as the following:

Present the target message quickly. Establish that the target to be (or its impacts were) not viewed consciously

Ask entrants what they observed or heard. Note that this is a great opportunity because that reviewing issues related to top questions, participants and researcher expectancy, and so on. For example, how could each of the following impact participant responses:

• walk you notice the picture that no belong?• Did friend hear anything unusual?• define what girlfriend saw

— develop that the target was nevertheless perceived (e.g., through effects on succeeding perception, together in many priming tasks)

Once the straightforward paradigm has been completely discussed, you could lug in the concepts detailed above and illustrate how countless of them are studied using similar paradigms. Comment on the extent to i m sorry our understanding of each ide helps united state answer the concern of even if it is stimuli can be perceived external of mindful awareness.

3. Usage a jigsaw classroom approach:

— assign a different concept to each student group, asking them come first clearly define and also describe the concept and then comment on the 2 guiding questions. You have the right to ask college student to usage the sample worksheet provided below to structure their discussions.

— inspect in with the teams to make sure they space on task and completing the worksheets correctly.

— form new groups in which every of the assigned concepts is represented and also have the students share their answers so every students check out all exactly how the concepts address the questions.

Facilitate a wrap-up conversation in i beg your pardon you review the answers to the overarching question:

1. Is it possible to consciousness stimuli external of awareness, or to be impacted by stimuli in ways we are not mindful of?a. Yes – theory and research top top priming, schemas, dispersing activation, and also top-down handling all suggest that we can perceive visual and also auditory stimuli that are presented exterior of aware awareness and/or the we deserve to be unaware of the means in i beg your pardon visual and also auditory stimuli influence us.

Remind students the the existence of subliminal tardy is not sufficient to support the type of dramatic alleged impacts they discovered in the examples that they carried to class, including any kind of meaningful affect on thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Call students that the next class session will be devoted to reasoning critically about this key question. Because that homework, you could ask college student to shot to find evidence purporting to support the claim that subliminal perception have the right to lead to coherent effects top top cognition, affect, or behavior; you might also ask students to read an original resource article such as the one by Karremans, Stroebe, & Claus (2006).

DAY 2Goals: To assist students critically think through proof that subliminal persuasion is possible.

Begin by reviewing the occupational in the previous course — emphasizing that subliminal perception is feasible but that the possibility of subliminal persuasion being at question. Review the instances of attempts in ~ subliminal persuasion the students lugged in critical time, and any new evidence they have found, to determine the particular claims do (e.g., that a subliminal post in movie ads will reason patrons to go buy more popcorn or that back-masked song lyrics (messages tape-recorded backwards) might cause some listeners to walk suicide). Highlight for college student the means in which this purported and also feared outcomes that subliminal messaging compare to the type of dependent variables provided in the research disputed in the last class. For example, how equivalent is interpreting ambiguous stimuli in schematic-consistent methods after exposure come a element to acquiring up the end of your movie chair to go and also buy popcorn?

Briefly go students through how researchers could test the insurance claims being made around the results of subliminal messaging. For example, using the classic subliminal messages in movie theater ads story, overview students to generate a examine such as this:

• Randomly entrust movie theater patrons to view either (a) a subliminal post encouraging snack acquisition or (b) a neutral message.

• measure snack sales.

Use this together an chance to evaluation research design (random assignment, IV, DV, operationalization of variables, honest issues, etc.)

Engage students in a conversation of the research proof for subliminal persuasion of attitudes. Two an excellent studies come cover are:

• the Bornstein, Leone, & Galley (1987) research on the only exposure effect: only exposure to a stimulus provides us choose it more, also if us were not consciously mindful of the exposure (the study discovered that subliminal exposure to abstract shapes and also photographs of world lasting as little as 4 ms led to greater preference for those shapes and people).

• the Karremans, Stroebe, & Claus (2006) Lipton ice study, in i m sorry subliminal priming of “Lipton Ice” led to higher intentions come drink Lipton Ice, yet only among those that were thirsty. (The writer did not measure yes, really behavior.)

Discuss with students the implications – and also limitations — of this studies.

• Subliminal influence on mindsets toward people, objects, and also products does it seems to be ~ possible.

• Subliminal affect on behavioral intentions walk seem feasible – however only among people that were currently motivated to engage in a particular behavior. Only thirsty human being said lock were more likely to buy a details beverage; human being who were not currently thirsty confirmed no response to the subliminal message.

• but would such impacts generalize come real-world situations? (e.g., how might differences in attention in the lab versus actual world impact the efficiency of subliminal messaging?)

• What impacts on actual actions might us see? If given the opportunity, would certainly the participants in the Karremans et al. Examine actually have actually purchased Lipton Ice?

If you have time, have students design a research study that would test several of the hypotheses elevated in this discussion in bespeak to aid them use their understanding of study methods and see just how scientific research study could assist us answer this questions.

If you have actually a third day to spend on this unit, entrust students come find extr research that has actually investigated this questions about subliminal persuasion, asking them to come to class next time ready to share and also discuss their findings. A list of feasible sources is consisted of below. Girlfriend could likewise assign each student one short article from this list fairly than having actually students search for their own articles.

Regardless of even if it is you take it 2 or 3 work on this unit, be certain to leave students with these take-home messages:

• Yes, subliminal late is possible. We do not need to be consciously mindful of or deliberately pay attention to stimuli in our environment for them to it is in perceived. We can observe proof of this subliminal tardy in straightforward priming effects, top-down processing, schematic processing, and also so on.

• Yes, subliminal persuasion of attitudes is possible, but typically only for weak attitudes and behavior-consistent attitudes. For example:

— just people already thirsty showed results of brand priming on will to purchase a certain brand of beverage (Karremans et al., 2006)

— just people already planning come donate come charity and who already held strong consistent values were influenced by a subliminal prime to donate an ext money (Andersson, Miettinen, Hytonen, Johannesson, & Stephan, 2017).

— Smarandescu & Shimp (2015) found thirsty entrants were more likely to choose a primed brand when available for free, yet not once there to be a quick (15-minute) hold-up between the prime and also the choice, arguing effects are fairly short-lived.

• Technically, then, subliminal influence is possible. However, the type of subliminal affect that wake up (e.g., perceiving ambiguous stimuli in ways constant with the subliminal stimulus) is a much cry from the kinds of subliminal influence world fear (e.g., losing complimentary will, behaving in values-inconsistent ways).

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Suggested references

Andersson, O., Miettinen, T., Hytonen, K., Johannesson, M., & Stephan, U. (2017). Subliminal affect on generosity. Experimental Economics, 20, 531 – 555. DOI: 10.1007/s10683-016-9498-8

Bargh, J. A. (2016). Awareness the the element versus awareness of its influence: implications for real-world limit of unconscious higher mental processes. Current Opinion in Psychology, 12, 49 – 52. DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.05.006

Bornstein, R. F., Leone, D. R., & Galley, D. J. (1987). The generalizability of subliminal mere exposure effects: influence of stimuli perceived without awareness on society behavior. Journal of Personality and also Social Psychology, 53, 1070 – 1079. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.53.6.1070

Karremans, J. C., Stroebe, W., & Claus, J. (2006). Past Vicary’s fantasies: the affect of subliminal priming and also brand choice. Journal of experimental Social Psychology, 42, 792 – 798.

Smarandescu, L., & Shimp, T. (2015). Drink Coca-Cola, eat popcorn, and also choose Powerade: experimentation the limits of subliminal persuasion. Marketing letters, 26, 715 – 726. DOI: 10.1007/s11002-014-9294-1