The Hidden Persuaders

The Psychology of Subliminal Perception

The Men & Ideas That Influence Our Every Day Lives

What makes us buy, believe and even vote the way we do. Symbol manipulation and motivational research, the depth approach.

They are a relatively new way to potentially influence and control large sections of the public through the mass media.
Wether the message broadcast is truly a subliminal stimuli i.e. it absolutely cannot be perceived by the conscious mind or a supraliminal stimuli i.e. it can be perceived by the conscious mind only by focus, both have the power to manipulate perception and decisions by accessing the subconscious mind.

This discovery has many implications in the real world.

Using subliminal messages it is possible to create desires in consumers that they can’t consciously understand but direct their unconscious buying decisions.


The history of America in the 20th century is the history of consumerism. From around the turn of the century its citizens had mostly attained the American dream and had all the things they wanted in good measure.

But capitalism thrives on growth and dies in stagnation. Industrialist who’s factories threatened to become idle needed solutions to keep customers wanting more.
But how do you make people who have everything want more – buy more.
Population growth and export markets are one answer but marketers looked to find other solutions to keep the factories busy and the people buying.

The ideas and answers they came up with are as ingenious as they are manipulative and are the overriding mark left to history, of the population of planet earth in the years that follow.
How was it possible to make people want things they already had.
How was it possible to build in obsolescence.
How was it possible to differentiate one brand of essentially the same product from another.
How was it possible to make people want to consume more – endlessly.

Marketers resolved to find new ways to get people to consume more by trying to understand what motivated people to buy.

When traditional research was undertaken they found that people were unable to tell them the real reason they bought one particular product rather than another.
The answer seemed to lay deeper in the human psyche.
So they commissioned psychologist’s to find out.
Slowly but surely it began to emerge that after taking care of their logical survival needs people bought things for far less obvious reasons. It seemed that people bought based on much deeper emotionally seated reasons that were often illogical rather than rational.
Marketers began to gain insights into people minds and behaviors and started to market not to their needs based on features and benefits but to their emotional reptilian brain and instinctual desires.
They noticed for example that men bought cars not for there utility but for there attractiveness to the opposite sex.
You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of car they drive. The model, the make, the color and the cost are all subtle clues to the real person metaphorically and literally behind the wheel.
And behind that person is the one who sold it to him – the marketeer.

They eventually uncovered eight hidden human needs:









“My belief is that, as our personalities get more fragmented, products and brands can work with us,” she says earnestly. “We are not at all about creating needs that people don’t have. We are about meeting wants that people do have. If we can understand the way people want to live their lives — the way they want to see themselves — and then put brands to work in the service of that, I think that’s a beautiful thing, actually.”
Virginia Valentine, president of Semiotic Solutions, whose clients include Coca-Cola, Mazda, Safeway, and SmithKline Beecham.The Return Of The Hidden Persuaders – RUTH SHALIT

By appealing to satisfy one or more of these deep seated unconscious needs they found they could win not only sales but consumers minds.

People would not be totally aware why they bought and/or preferred one brand or one product over another but the rational mind would do its job of filling in the gaps to make what was essentially an irrational decision – rational.

Some might say it was the perfect crime with the rational mind making up the alibi for the unconscious decision.
Marketers learned our vulnerabilities and how to tap into our deepest desires and drives. The better to influence our minds and channel our behaviors.

They have been doing so ever since.

Ask Yourself Why Coke & Popcorn Seem To Be Such An Integral Part Of The Cinematic Experience & Why They Are So Expensive


This knowledge together with the advent of mass media, created a powerful new way for directly accessing the subconscious portion of the mind and in so doing, strongly influencing it.

American marketers and motivational researchers such as James Vicary supposedly (later disclaimed) demonstrated primitive systems such as the tachistoscope, to flash consciously invisible messages on a screen.

It was claimed that flashed messages such as “Hungry? Eat Popcorn,” and “Drink Coca Cola” resulted in significant increases in sales of those items.

Although this experiment was later disclaimed as never having happened, there is no doubt that experimental research did yield data highlighting the enormous potential for the use of mass media and communications to be used to subliminally imprint and persuade consumers.

One of the most significant discoveries of that modern research was just how effective subliminal messaging and programming actually was.

No company today can survive if it does not win the hearts and minds of its customers. Brands now carry symbolic unconscious meaning with them which the consumer can then use for his own well being i.e. fulfill temporarily one of the eight human needs.

When a company can create such an underlying identity need fit, they in fact OWN the consumer’s mind.


There is no doubt that human behavior can be influenced by subliminal stimuli even when individuals, groups and even societies are completely unaware.

Placing pre-arranged thoughts or ideas into the subconscious mind that appeal to our primitive reptilian brain and/or reinforce pre-existing stored information can increase a person’s selective attention.

As a personal method of programming internal subconscious thought patterns it can be extremely powerful.

Having positive reinforcing thought patterns in the shape of specially selected suggestive affirmations that appeal to the imagination, broadcast repeatedly, can bring about profound and lasting changes.

Not only in subconscious thought itself but in the resultant behavior brought about by the actions taken, based on those new thoughts.

New actions, new behavior, bring about new results from the external world and can often lead to a snowballing or cumulative effect spiralling positively upwards.

It’s the reverse of a negative situation spiralling out of control, ever downwards.

Most of us have experienced this negative phenomenon and now its possible to use this amazing effect to our positive benefit and for incredible new opportunities and rewards in our life.

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