Progressive Awareness Research

Improving Lives One Person at a Time since 1984.

Subliminal Literature: Bibliography and Review


Peripheral Desk Reference P

Packard, V. (1957). The Hidden Persuaders. New York: David McKay,


Packard V. (1981 February). The new (and still hidden) persuaders. Reader's Digest, 118 (4), pp 120-123.

Vance Packard discusses the use of subliminals in advertising.
Packard describes a cinema that flashes ice cream ads onto the screen during regular showings of film.

The flashes are of a split second duration and as such are too short to be recognized consciously, but long enough to be absorbed unconsciously.

As a result there was an otherwise unaccountable boost in ice cream sales.
From an interview with Dr. George Horsley Smith (Rutgers psychologist and author of Motivation Research in Advertising and Marketing published by Advertising Research Foundation), Packard affirms that, "there is evidence that people can be affected by subthreshold stimulation; for example, a person can be conditioned to odors and sounds that are just outside the range of conscious awareness".


Packer, S.B. (1984). The effect of subliminally stimulating fantasies aimed at gratifying symbiotic and sanctioning aggressive strivings on assertiveness difficulties in women. New York University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45 (1-B), p. 361. ISSN: 0419-4209.


Pajurkova-Flannery, E.M. (1979). Subliminal perception in the context of functional hemispheric asymmetries. University of Windsor, Canada. Dissertation Abstracts International, 40 (4-B), p. 1870.

Eva Pajurkova-Flannery studied perceptual defence and the effects of subliminal stimuli upon subsequent verbal behavior in the context of functional hemispheric asymmetries and hemisphericity of the subjects.
The hypotheses put forward were;

1) that the subjects would demonstrate perceptual defence for words flashed into their left visual field (LVF) by recognizing significantly fewer anxiety words than neutral words.

2) no such effects would be seen for their right visual field (RVF).

3) the magnitude of perceptual defence would vary in relation to the hemisphericity of the subjects, and

4) that the presumably anxiety-arousing verbal stimuli not recognized by the subjects during unilateral tachistopic presentations (perceptual defence) would, under some conditions, influence the subject's subsequent interpretation of repetitive ambiguous auditory verbal stimuli.

The subjects were divided according to those who showed at least 75% of their lateral eye movements to the right, and those who showed 75% of their lateral eye movements to the left.

Perceptual defence was demonstrated as predicted.

The results were discussed in context of the current neurophysiological evidence, which suggests that the right hemisphere and the inhibition of neuronal transmission across the cerebral commissures may be involved in the mechanisms underlying perceptual defence, repression and certain unconscious processes.

A dichotic verbal transformation task (DVT) was employed before and after the tachistopic procedure in order to explore the effects of subliminal stimuli upon the subjects' subsequent interpretation of repetitive ambiguous auditory verbal stimuli.

The results showed that the DVT pre-test reports differed significantly from the DVT post test reports as a function of the tachistopically presented anxiety-producing stimuli which were not recognized by the subjects during the tachistopic experiment.


Palmatier, J.R.
(1981). The effects of subliminal stimulation of symbiotic fantasies on the behavior therapy treatment of smoking. University of Montana. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41 (7-B), pp 2774-2775.


Palmatier, J.R. & Bornstein, P.H. (1980). Effects of subliminal stimulation of symbiotic merging fantasies on behavioral treatment of smokers. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168 (12), pp 715-720. ISSN: 0022-3018.

Jay Palmatier and Bornstein performed this study in order to enhance the efficacy of a behavior therapy approach to smoking cessation through use of the subliminal psychodynamic activation method.

The subjects in both experimental and control groups received four presentations of a tachistoscopic subliminal message separated by a three-second presentation of a blank field.

The experimental group was exposed to the message "mommy and I are one" while the control group was exposed to the neutral message "people are walking."

A pilot study had verified that no one could recognize the content of the messages and fewer than 5 percent could discriminate between the two stimuli.

The results showed a significant decrease in smoking behavior for the subjects exposed to subliminal stimuli over a 21-day period.

The results were interpreted as evidence for a transference phenomena explanation for the effectiveness of the behavioral treatment program.


Palmer, J. (1992). "Effect of a threatening subliminal stimulus on the perceptual ESP test: A partial replication." Journal of Parapsychology 56(3): 189-204.

No significance found in clairvoyance test and subliminally presented threat message.


Palmer, J. (1994). "Explorations with the Perceptual ESP Test." Journal of Parapsychology 58(2): 115-147

This study found a positive correlation between ESP hits and trait anxiety and a significant increase in scores for the group receiving the symbiotic message who responded dissociatively to their target test.


Palumbo, R. & Gillman, I. (1984). Effects of subliminal activation of oedipal fantasies on competitive performance: a replication and extension. Hofstra University. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 172 (12), pp 733-741. ISSN: 0022-3018.

Robert Palumbo and Irene Gillman conducted a subliminal psychodynamic activation experiment to test the effects of 5 subliminal stimuli on dart-throwing performance.
The stimuli consisted of the following messages, each accompanied by a congruent picture;

a) "beating dad is ok",

b) "beating dad is wrong",

c) "beating him is wrong",

d) "beating him is wrong", and

e) "people are walking".

The first 2 stimuli were intended to activate competitive motives within the context of the Oedipus complex; the next 2, competitive motives outside that context; and the last message was intended as a control stimulus.

The results showed that the stimulus "beating dad is ok" led to greater dart-throwing accuracy than each of the other 4 conditions, which, in turn, did not differ from each other.
This finding replicates a result reported by L.H. Silverman et al (1978) and is in keeping with the formulation that the activation of oedipal motives can affect competitive performance.


Parker, K.A. (1978). The effects of subliminal merging stimuli on the academic performance of college students. Doctoral Dissertation, New York University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 38 (12-B), p. 6168.


Parker, K.A. (1982). Effects of subliminal symbiotic stimulation on academic performance: Further evidence on the adaptation-enhancing effects of oneness fantasies. University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Harbor Campus, Torrance. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 29 (1), pp 19-28. ISSN: 0022-0167.

In this study, Kenneth Parker demonstrated that subliminal messages improved academic performance using Silverman's psychodynamic activation technique.

The subjects were college students, and in addition to normal instruction, they received subliminal stimulation before three out of five lectures each week, as well as before and after a 10 minute counseling session with the experimenter.

The subjects were divided into three groups, each group receiving one of the following messages;

1) "mommy and I are one",

2) "my prof and I are one", and

3) "people are walking".

The main dependent variable was the final examination grade received by each student.
Results indicated that both experimental groups earned significantly higher grades than the control group.

It was concluded that the stimulation of oneness fantasies had an adaptation-enhancing effect on behavior.


Patton, C.J. (1988). Bulimia and depression: a subliminal psychodynamic activation investigation. Dissertation Abstracts International, 48 (10-B), p. 3118.


Patton, C. J. (1992). "Fear of abandonment and binge eating: A subliminal psychodynamic activation investigation." Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease 180(8): 484-490.

Supraliminal exposure to an abandonment stimulus led to increased consumption of crackers in a bogus craker rating test for women ranked with a high eating disorder. No such effect was observed for the same stimulus when presented subliminally.


Paul, I.H. & Fisher, C. (1959). Subliminal visual stimulation: A study of its influence on subsequent images and dreams. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 129, pp 315-340.


Pfanner, D.A. (1983). Sensitivity to subliminal stimulation: An investigation of subject variables and conditions affecting psychodynamic and derivative recovery response. New York University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 43 (11-B), p. 3739. ISSN: 0419-4209.

Previous studies have found that;

a) ceratin conditions and subjects characteristics are significant in facilitating stimulus "recovery", and

b) more affect-laden stimulation produces idiosyncratic, less direct effects.

Darryle Pfanner designed this study in order to;

1) to compare two types of response to subliminal stimulation, :recovery" and "psychodynamic",

2) to compare two types of subliminal induction methods, tachistopic and low illumination, and

3) to investigate three subject variables that were hypothesized to have bearing on psychodynamic or recovery responses: ego permissiveness, right hemispheres activation preference, and depressive manifestations.

The subjects were divided into two groups for induction method, and were exposed to either control, aggressive or "symbiotic" messages.

The results showed differences between the two induction methods.

Whilst the low-illumination group showed the expected responses, apparent experiment artifact effects were found for the tachistopic group.

Response to the symbiotic stimulus on psychodynamic measure bore no relationship to response on the recovery measure, and psychodynamic response to the aggressive stimulus was directly related to recovery response to the aggressive stimulus.


Philpott, A. & Wilding, J. (1979). Semantic inference from subliminal stimuli in a dichoptic viewing situation. University of London, University College Ergonomics Unit, England. British Journal of Psychology, 70 (4), pp 559-563. ISSN: 0007-1269.

Adrian Philpott and John Wilding conducted these two experiments in order to test the effects of subliminal stimuli.

In experiment 1, the subjects were asked to name words shapes or colors presented to one eye while subliminal words or shapes were presented to the other eye.

The results showed that the subliminal presentation slowed the responses when they had the same name as the stimulus to be named or a closely related name, as compared with nonsense words (random letter strings) or blank cards.

This result was replicated in the second experiment.

In this second experiment, unrelated words were included with the subliminal stimuli.
For the trials with unrelated words, the response speeds were midway between those for trials with blank cards or nonsense words as the subliminal stimuli and trials with same name or a closely related name as the subliminal stimuli.

The results imply that subliminal stimuli related in meaning compete for common analyzing mechanisms.


Pittman, T. S. (1992). Perception without awareness in the stream of behavior: Processes that produce and limit nonconscious biasing effects. Perception without awareness: Cognitive, clinical, and social perspectives. T. S. P. Robert F. Bornstein, Guilford Press, New York, NY, US: 277-296. (from the chapter) processes underlying social psychological effects of perception without awareness / misattribution of perceptual fluency and perception without awareness / affect and perception without awareness / cognition and perception without awareness / control processes: when perception without awareness enters the stream of behavior / commitment and the maintenance of decisional freedom.


Poloway, M.D. (1984). Experimental investigation of the psychoanalytic theory of heroin addiction using the subliminal psychodynamic activation method. California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45 (4-B), p. 1295. ISSN: 0419 4209.

Mark Poloway performed this study in order to investigate experimentally;

1) the validity of the psychoanalytic theory of heroin addict personality, and

2) subliminal psychodynamic activation as a technique for testing psychoanalytic theory.

It was predicted that a subliminal stimulus triggering unconscious oral rage towards mother would increase the addict's defenses against these unconscious affects, causing the reduction of hostile attitudes overtly expressed to mother.

The subjects were assigned to one of four treatments;

1) "hate mommy",

2) "love mommy"

3) "hate daddy", or

4) "love daddy".

Treatment 2, 3 and 4 were all control conditions.

The results showed that the various subliminal treatments had virtually no differential impact on subjects.

The findings suggest that the positive findings from past subliminal psychodynamic experiments could be due to inefficient controls procedures.


Plante, T. G., Marcotte, D., Manuel, G. M. & Willemsen, E. (1993). The Influence of Aerobic Exercise and Relaxation Training on Coping with Test-Taking Anxiety. International Jouranl of Stress Management, 3, pp 155-166.

This study compared aerobic exercise, a demonstrated treatment effective in lowering examination anxiety, with an audio subliminal tape recording created by Eldon Taylor using the so called "Taylor Method." Results comfi9rmed the effectiveness of aerobic exercise and demonstrated a slight numerical advantage to relaxation training administered by this particular form of subliminal stimuli.


Porterfield, A.L. (1984). The effects of subliminal aggressive and "merging" stimuli on the cognitive function of schizophrenics. A failure of Silverman's subliminal activation. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45 (1-B), pp 362-363. ISSN: 0419-4209.


Porterfield, A.L. (1985). Comments on three recent subliminal psychodynamic activation investigations: Reply to Silverman. Oberlin College. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 94 (4), pp 645-646. ISSN: 0021-843X.

Albert Porterfield argues that, in defending his nonverbal pathology measure against the claim that it lacks demonstrated validity, L.H. Silverman painted a misleading picture of its face validity.

Porterfield presents a correction to that picture.

In addition, the author defends the impact of the findings by himself and S.L. Golding on subliminal psychodynamic activation explanations of schizophrenic thought disorder, despite the absence of a nonverbal pathology measure.


Porterfield, A. & Golding, S.L. (1985). Failure to find an effect of subliminal psychodynamic activation upon cognitive measures of pathology in schizophrenia. Oberlin College. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 94 (4), pp 630-639. ISSN: 0021-843X.

Albert Porterfield and Stephen Golding replicated the work of L.H. Silverman et al., in order to find an effect of subliminal psychodynamic activation upon cognitive measures of pathology in schizophrenia.

The subjects were exposed to an aggressive, a merging and a meaningless lexical stimulus in a within-S design.

The dependent variables were inkblot thought pathology and form quality, as measured on Rorschach and Holtzman Inkblot Technique Cards, and performance on the interference task of the Stroop Color-Word Test.

The analyses of variance, which was conducted on simple post-stimulation scores, rather than on unreliable change scores, showed no effect of the stimulus content.

The predicted interactions between stimulus content, subjects' self-object differentiation and temporal position of the assessment tasks did not emerge.

The findings do not support Silverman's hypothesis that subliminal tachistoscopic presentations of stimuli with aggressive content temporarily increase thinking disorder in schizophrenics.


Powell, R.C. (1979). The "subliminal" versus the "subconscious" in the American acceptance of psychoanalysis, 1906-1910. Journal of Historical Behavioral Science, 15 (2), pp 155-165. ISSN: 0022-5061.

Powell states that, as far as Frederic W.H. Myers' conceptions of subliminal were spread by the Boston-based Emmanuel movement for medically supervised religious psychotherapy, the movement probably did more to help than to hinder American acceptance of Freudian ideas.


Pratkanis, A. R., J. Eskenazi, et al. (1994). "What you expect is what you believe (but not necessarily what you get): A test of the effectiveness of subliminal self-help audiotapes." Basic & Applied Social Psychology 15(3): 251-276.

The experimenters obtained commercially produced tapes in two domains, memory and esteem. The labels on the two tape titles were switched so that subjects beleived they has a tape on memory when it was self esteem and vice versa. After five weeks of listening in a home environment, subjects reported gains in the areas of expectation, based on labeling.


Pribble, W. E. (1988). Effects of subliminal activation of object loss fantasies in borderline personalities: A controlled comparative study, Ohio U, US.


Pushkash, M. (1981). Effect of the content of visually presented subliminal stimulation on semantic and figural learning task performances. Marquette University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41( 12-A, part 1), p. 5036. ISSN: 0419-4209.

Mark Pushkash conducted this study in order to;

a) test the effects of subliminal stimulation on performance scores,

b) test for any interaction between subliminal and supraliminal task, and

c) test the effects of practice on performance.

The subjects were presented with subliminal stimuli of varied content and supraliminal paired associate lists.

From the results it was seen that performance improved with practice.
The results but did not support the hypotheses that subliminal stimuli can affect performance.

The subliminal stimuli was, however, seen to effect learning when the learning task required non-dominant hemisphere processing of semantic information.

This finding suggests that subliminal messages are processed in the non-dominant hemisphere.


The Controversy in the Differences of Audio Subliminal Technology

Subliminal Messages, Subliminal Audio, Subliminal Advertising and How it Works

The Power of the Subconscious Mind and Positive Thoughts or Self Talk

The InnerTalk Subliminal Technology

Report: The Truth About Subliminal Programs
(PDF Download)

Peripheral Learning Reference Guide

The Subliminal Challenge

Grants for Research