Can subliminal messages cause changes in behavior and belief? In short, no; however, I plan to dive into this mysterious concept of subliminal messages, and to debunk some common misconceptions about them. I will explore the absolute threshold which is a concept in psychology that describes when stimuli are first perceived by an individual, and I plan to have an actual test in my presentation which will illustrate both stimuli below and above the absolute threshold, and will show that two distinct individuals may have different absolute thresholds. I will then look at subliminal messages in relation to absolute threshold as stimuli that are purposely set below the absolute threshold. After looking at these mechanisms of subliminal messaging, I plan to describe experiments preformed that involve subliminal messages that show that they do not work as they are intended. Now having shown that subliminal messages do not work as they are intended to, I will suggest some possible alternatives to subliminal messages that may cause behavioral changes. I plan to first explore the concept of cognitive ease which is a psychological mechanism that describes how hard the brain is working to accomplish a task, and I will give some examples where I display two problems one which takes no effort and will take less than a second to solve, and another problem that is more complex. The point behind this exercise is to prove that some problems use a lot less mental work than others, and then I will explain that when exposed to a stimulus even one that is false because of the repeated exposure, the mind will start to perceive it as true. In my final section, I plan to look at hypnosis which is simply having suggestions given to you, and I will look at a study which shows that participants who are subjected to hypnosis before doing a cognitive test perform better than they did without hypnosis. Thus, hypnosis and cognitive ease can help provide alternative ways that affect behavior.
For my independent reading, I explored the dystopian novel Candor which takes place in present day Florida. The entire essence of the novel is that in the town of Candor, music is always playing wherever you go, and the music contains subliminal messages that cause the citizens of Candor to obey the laws and conform to a perfect society. However, Oscar Banks (the son of the founder of Candor) knows of the town’s secret, and he smuggles new children out of the town. The novel begins with a new girl in town Nia meeting Oscar, but the two don’t get off to a good start. Oscar tries to convince Nia that the town sends subliminal messages to the citizens, but she doesn’t believe him. However, the character of Nia is very intriguing because she is seen going days in Candor without conforming to the subliminal messages as she even says “I only do what I want” (Bachorz 86). Even though Nia has been exposed to the messages she remains in her own control until she is locked in the listening room where she spends days listening to the messages. Thus, I plan to study the effects of being exposed to subliminal messages on the human mind. Topics that I plan to look into for my research will be whether or not subliminal messages can actually change human behavior. If I discover that they can affect the behavior, I plan to look into how they actually work and whether using subliminal messages to change behavior is ethical. On the other hand, if I conclude that subliminal messages do not change behavior, then I plan into looking at possible explanations that can cause the citizens of Candor to have their behavior change. All in all, I plan to use psychological studies on behavioral changes to discover the truth about subliminal messages, and whether Candor could possibly be a reality.