Wednesday, April 28, 2021


For this week's Scribblings, we're asked to consider liminal space.  I segued to subliminal space, which is a long-ago interest of mine. Forgive me for offering verbose prose, but it's what came to mind for this challenge!  Submitted to Poets & Storytellers United, April 28, 2021


When I saw the topic for this week's Scribblings, it triggered the archives in the attic of my brain, and I remembered an interest of mine from around 1960 ---subliminal advertising--so my mind leaped from liminal space to subliminal space  Advertisers have  been experimenting with subliminal messaging -- either auditory or visual stimuli given at a level the conscious mind cannot perceive.  An early example was by a man named Vicary who claimed an experiment by placing subliminal messages of "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Eat popcorn" in the screening of the movie "Picnic" in a Fort Lee, New Jersey theater.  He claimed the hidden phrases, flashed at 13/1000 of a second at intervals increased the sale of Coca-Cola and popcorn exponentially.  While his experiment was later found to be a hoax, subliminal advertising continues to this day by such entities as, for example,  Marlboro, Benson and Hedges,  KFC, and McDonalds, and in-store music. When researchers played music in a liquor store, they found a startling result. On days when German music was played, German wine outsold French wine. However, the reverse happened when French music was played--this from a study in 1999.

Today, the use of subliminal messaging is banned in many countries. Unsurprisingly, the United States does not expressly forbid the use of subliminal messages in advertisements, though their use does fall under federal law enforcement jurisdiction  So, next time you're grocery shopping or in an elevator, pay attention to the music.  You may be receiving messages unaware!  If you'd like to know more, check out "Hidden Persuaders" by Vance Packard, published l957, the book that sparked my interest.   


  1. I'd heard that Coke story, I didn't know it was a hoax. It's fascinating what our brains register without us knowing.

  2. My son Chris and I were talking about this very topic last Sunday ... as it relates to social media and advertising for our dollars. Great prose piece🤔🤔

  3. That came into my mind also. 'Subliminal' was a study and pet of Freud.
    From google, ""Liminal" comes from the Latin noun "limen" meaning "threshold." It makes sense, then, that "liminal" applies to the idea of a sensory threshold. "Subliminal" is below that threshold at which an effect is produced. Mar 29, 2021"

  4. Fascinating concepts, both liminal and subliminal. The possibilities of subliminal mind-manipulation are scary indeed!

  5. I remember hearing about this. There were some examples of it used in an old sci-fi show I liked to watch, where this villainous group set on taking over the planet (LOL, isn't that always the way) used it to try to get people to report 'subversive' actions.

  6. I had heard about this as well, and it brings back how frightening this type of thing can be. Great piece, Bev!