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Subliminal Learning

CAN SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES be used in multimedia products to influence learning. There are varying views on subliminal messages and learning. This report will present a brief background on the subconscious mind and subliminal perception. Then, it will examine how subliminal messages are used to promote learning with multimedia products. Lastly, it will discuss ethical considerations and techniques for using subliminal messages.
The Unconscious Mind and Subliminal Perception

The father of psychology as it relates to the conception of the unconscious mind, Sigmund Freud, established the fact that powerful forces operate in our minds without our being aware of them. (Saul 1951)

The term "subliminal perception" defines a perception of stimuli presented at a lower intensity than that at which people are able to register consciously (Orbash 1995). Psychoanalysis researchers believe that subliminal perception can be used effectively to access and manipulate the unconscious mind. It bypasses the defenses that block the way to the unconscious and can dramatically influence overt behavior. (Orbash 1995)

How Subliminal Messages are Used to Promote Learning with Multimedia Products

Today, subliminal messages are largely known for their use in advertisement. Hidden messages are embedded in television commercials and magazines to make the audience remember something. Because subliminal messages have been found to promote learning and influence changes in behavior, they are used in subliminal self-help audio tapes to help change human behaviors such as overeating, low self-esteem or smoking.

Subliminal messages can be embedded in white-noise such as the sound of the ocean. When the learner listens to the subliminal self-help audio tape it can influence changes in their behavior. Unfortunately, there are many biases associated with this type of subliminal learning. When the learner believes that the subliminal messages exist, researchers have shown that it can actually influence their behavior and create an expectation for learning to occur. (Spangenberg & Obermiller 1992)

Ethical Consideration

Ethical consideration should be used when presenting subliminal messages that are unknown to people. Ethics can be problematic and unclear. It is neither absolute nor relative. There is no single ethical theory or approach that is best for all situations. It involves question of what is right and why it's right. (Dombrowski 2000)

People generally do not want other people to influence them without their knowledge. Many people actually believe that subliminal messages can be used to manipulate their minds and affect their behavior. Surveys have shown that people rank subliminal messages high on a list of unwanted influences, such as false rumors about a political candidate. (Bargh 1999)

The Walt Disney Co. was twice accused of inserting subliminal signals into children's movies. In 1999, millions of copies the their adventure cartoon Rescuers were pulled from the shelves of video stores after employees discovered a few frames of a naked woman that could not be seen at regular viewing speed embedded in the film. In 1995, the American Life League publicized that the word "sex" was rising into the sky from puffs of smoke in a scene of the Lion King movie. (McGovern 1999)

Techniques for Using Subliminal Messages

The following techniques can be used to promote subliminal learning. A clear watermark notating something that the learner needs to remember can be embedded into the background of text. Verbal suggestions that reference what the learners needs to remember can be mention while presenting other more interesting text to influence memory. Fast moving colorful images that naturally attracts the learner's eyes can be used to grab the learner's attention. (Dombrowski 2000)

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