Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

History of the 25th Frame. the Subliminal Message

Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

History of the 25th Frame. the Subliminal Message

Article excerpt

"The whole is more than the sum of the parts" pleads professor Beau Lotto from the University College of London, which considers that the audience sees 10% of an image with the eyes and the rest with the brain.

Max Sutherland and Alice K. Sylvester accredit the idea that this is "the biggest myth of all": the fact that publicity manipulates by using the subliminal stimulus. They consider that we only speak of a modern legend, which does not determine the increase of sales for a specific product. The phenomenon has taken in ampleness in 1957, at the moment when, in a cinema in New Jersey, a marketing specialist, the American James Vicary, would have introduced in the film "Picnic" the slogans "Drink Coca Cola" and "Hungry? Eat Popcorn". These images and the respective writings repeated themselves each 5 seconds, without being perceived consciously by the audience, their length being under 50 millisec, therefore under brain's capacity of reception. Therefore, these images have been perceived only subconsciously. The experiment lasted for 6 weeks, 45,000 people having been exposed to this kind of impulses. Studies have shown that after this experiment the sales have increased with 57.5 % for popcorn and 18.1% for Coca Cola. The results were shocking, and the academic field was sceptic in what concerns their validity. Moreover, in 1984, James Vicary has admitted in Advertising Age Magazine that everything was a fake, an attempt to manipulate. Despite all these, the concept of "subliminal publicity" has resisted, being once again backed up, in the middle of the last century, by the book entitled "The Hidden Persuaders", written by Vance Packard, where Vicarys experiment is being presented as a form of clandestine manipulation.

The literature of the field demonstrates the existence of 15 classification criteria of publicity, which determine the apparition of 35 types of publicity, inclusively 15 subtypes. Among the used criteria, I would mention publicity orientation, objective, nature of the message or goods, the psychological processes involved (herein are identified the rational-, mechanical-, integrative-, suggestive- and emotional-type publicities). Furthermore, the geographical criteria, the expected effect, the communication channels, but also the level of perception, are taken into account. In this category we have a conscious level of perception and a subliminal one1.

In 1978, Weiner has redone the test made by Vicary. He infiltrated the word boeuf (beef) in the journal of a film, and hoped that this would determine the increase in sales, according to the previous model. As a matter of fact, during the break, the audience did not buy more beef sandwiches. This experiment has called once again in question the power of influencing consumer's behaviour, through a subliminal message.

Jean-Noel Kapferer demonstrates, on the basis of various experiments, that the subliminal threshold is variable, depending on stimulus, observer and context.

He has emphasised the fact that the force of the visual image has greater impact over the subconscious. The image does not demand a prompt decoding and it is immediately assimilated. Doina Ru§ti appreciates that, no matter if we talk about the image of a word or about a photo, the information infiltrates into a specific scheme which brings back sometimes in supraliminal various new meanings.

The visual subliminal perceives 24 frames per second. In this sequence succession, there can be inserted a 25th frame, with no connection with the visible message, yet perceived consciously by the human brain. The subliminal images are invisible at normal speed. The eye would not see them and the spectator would not question this image.

Such a study has been developed in 2014 with the pupils of the "Petru Rares" National College in Suceava, who were asked to realize a commercial for a drug. In order to increase progressively the frequency of frames, they have imagined a child running and becoming a teenager, then an adult (Fig. …

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