Subliminal stimuli are said to be any sensory stimuli below the threshold for conscious perception. The classic experiments with subliminal techniques involved flashing words like "popcorn" or "buy a cold drink" on a movie screen for a duration that was too short for the conscious mind to pick up, but with the assumption that the words would be seen and responded to at a subconscious level. Supposedly sales of popcorn and rinks went up when using this technique, but the experiments were largely discredited later when the methodology was found to be suspect.
How much we are influenced by sounds we can't quite hear and things we can't quite see is still an unsettled area of psychological science. But the word subliminal has a more general meaning as well. It can simply refer to any influences which are not consciously recognized. This includes many things which are in plain sight, and the manipulation of language in ways that affect the hearer without his or her awareness. In other words, the stimuli might be consciously recognizable, but the effects may not be. With that in mind, here are a couple examples of subliminal techniques.
Make Yourself Seem Warmer
According to Ruud Custers, a psychology professor at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, research shows that if someone is holding warm cup of coffee or in a warm room while with you, that person will think of you are a warmer (nicer) person. The converse is true of cold drinks and rooms, by the way. So if you want to impress someone you are just getting to know, you might consider meeting in a warm room or handing her a cup of tea. In any case avoid cold places.
Convince With a Word
Want to convince somebody to do something? There is a simple psychological trick that has been proven to work; just provide a reason for the request. For example, consider the experiment done by Social psychologist Ellen Langer (and this is an experiment you could try yourself). According to an article in Natural News;
"...she asked to cut in line to use a copy machine. She tested three different ways of asking, and recorded the results:
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? 60% said OK.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a rush? 94% said OK.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies? 93% said OK."
Just saying "because I'm in a rush" or "because I have to make some copies" resulted in much higher compliance with the request, suggesting that the actual reason wasn't the important factor. The word "because" was the key element. After all, saying "because I have to make some copies" should be irrelevant (what else would one need a copy machine for?). We are conditioned to consider a request more important if we hear "because" (or perhaps any words indicating a reason).
Smiling as a Subliminal Technique?
This last example is from Chapter 1 (Subliminal Persuasion Techniques You Can Use Today) in my e-book, "You Aren't supposed to Know," which is part of the Secrets Package. The chapter starts...
A smile can be a form of subliminal persuasion, assuming the person who is persuaded is not consciously aware that they were influenced by it. In fact, it has been shown in studies that patrons of bars buy more drinks and tip more if the bartender smiles at them. No real surprise there, but still a valuable tool for any waiters, waitresses and bartenders who haven't yet put this income booster to work consistently.
Using subliminal techniques on people to get them to take a particular action or to manipulate their feelings can be unethical, but it does depend somewhat on the intent. After all, we try to convince family and friends to do things all the time without announcing to them that we are trying to influence their decisions, and without specifying the techniques we use (we just aren't aware of them as techniques most of the time). You will have to decide for yourself when it is appropriate to use this kind of knowledge (my general rule is that the intent has to be good and there also has to be a good reason not to use a more conscious approach to influencing someone).
Edited by: Lawyer Asad