Subliminal messages – those sensory stimuli that occur below an individual’s threshold of conscious awareness – are nothing new. They’ve been around at least since the advent of radio and television, and it’s no secret that advertisers and programmers have long inserted hidden messages that consumers receive unknowingly. 

But how widespread is the use of subliminals today, and how legal is it…and, for that matter, how moral is it for messages to be sent to your mind without you being aware of the fact?

We explore these questions in our book THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy. Here’s an excerpt:

There are numerous well-known incidents of subliminals being used in media advertising. A CBS News article headed The 10 Best Subliminal Ads Ever Made  provides some interesting examples. You can check them out at:

The known history of this advertising technique essentially began in 1957, when market researcher James Vicary inserted subliminal messages into screenings of a film at a movie theater in New Jersey. The subliminals instructed cinemagoers to eat popcorn and buy Coca-Cola. According to Vicary, sales for both Coke and popcorn went through the roof.

Vicary’s cinema experiment coincided withthe publication of Vance Packard’s bestselling book The Hidden Persuaders, which highlights subliminal tactics used by advertisers.

Bestselling book highlights subliminal tactics.

These developments prompted many others with an interest in influencing minds to begin researching this new technique. And so the subliminal movement was born.

Subliminal messaging has been banned in some countries including the UK and Australia, but it remains legal in most countries.

Although legal in the US, subliminal messaging is frowned upon – officially at least. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warns it will revoke any broadcaster’s licence where the use of subliminals is proven, and high profile American broadcasters and television networks pay lip service to the intent behind the FCC’s warning and to their expressed desire to protect listeners and viewers from subliminals.

Since the 1950’s, numerous proposed laws to ban subliminal advertising have been introduced to the US Congress, but all have perished in committee without making it to the floor of either the House or Senate for a vote. Several states, including California, have at times discussed anti-subliminal advertising laws, but none have enacted those laws. The usual excuse given by lawmakers is that as research has failed to conclusively prove subliminal advertising is effective there’s no need to pass such laws.

There is a school of thought in America that there’s a conspiracy – in which the big corporations and ad agencies are key players – to convince the public that subliminal advertising doesn’t work.

Advertisers and others have gone to great lengths to assure us subliminals do not work, trotting out the results of “exhaustive studies,” “consumer poll results” and “extensive research” that point to the results of subliminal messaging being fairly ambiguous at best. One study quoted by Wikipedia claims “subliminal messages produce only one-tenth of the effects of detected messages”.

However, there is credible research that shows subliminal stimuli often sparks actions someone intended to perform. In other words, actions can be subliminally prompted if someone was already planning to carry out that action, but it will not force them to do something they weren’t already thinking of doing.


Conspiracy theorists go much further than that and often state or imply many or even most of our everyday actions are the result of subliminal messages we have seen or heard. They argue we receive so many subliminals throughout our lives that it has a cumulative effect which, when added up, amounts to mind control.

So there you have it: the two extremes. As is often the case, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. Or is it?

Many independent researchers have come to the shocking conclusion that we are being bombarded with so many subliminals every day it’s virtually impossible not to be influenced by them in some way.

And science may be beginning to support the claims of these researchers. For example, very recent studies involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have revealed that subliminals activate crucial regions of the brain including the hippocampus, the amygdala, the primary visual cortex and the insular cortex. These latest scientific studies directly contradict 20th Century research.

Read more in The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy:

Not all is what it seems!


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