See what else I'm up to > > > >

Monday, October 4, 2010

Subliminal Listening

Subliminal Listening

Last week, I posted about subliminal advertising and gave a couple of examples.  In the comments on that post, Boxxy reminded me about a conversation we once had about subliminal messages buried in music.  (And no, I’m not talking about playing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards.  That’s called backmasking and it’s idiotic.)  What I’m talking about is a scientific means for using music to influence human behavior, specifically in a retail environment.  Here’s a couple of techniques that you may not even realize you’re being subjected to.

#1  Does music make you move?  Does upbeat music make you swing your hips and snap your fingers, sometimes without you even realizing it?  For most people, the answer is yes.  (If the answer is no, then you need to get out more.)  You don’t play Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies when you’re home alone and cleaning the house.  You play some upbeat rock or country, something to get your blood flowing.  (I’m going to turn some on right now!)

Have you ever been to a coffee shop in the morning?  (Are you tired of answering questions?)  The music is usually upbeat, no matter what genre.  The reason is, people naturally move faster when music with a faster tempo is playing.  Coffee shops, in particular, need to blow through a ton of customers in the mornings to make some money!  This technique is very helpful.  If you go back to the same shop in the afternoon, you’ll hear a much more relaxing playlist.  Why?  So that you’ll sit around for a while.  Kick back.  Maybe, oh, I dunno, buy something else!  Coffee joints aren’t exactly busy in the afternoon, so any tactic to rake in more of your dollars is welcome.  I could go into many more examples, but I have another technique to get into.

#2  This one is a little creepy.  You know that guy at the end of car commercials who talks really, really, really fast?  So fast you can barely understand what he’s saying?  (Is he even human?  Yes.)  The advertisers typically record the person talking at a normal speed and then just speed it up with their techno-super-powers.  You can hardly make out every word, but your ears and your brain: they soak up every last bit.  Yep.  Your brain is smarter than you.  (I know what you’re thinking: huh?  But don’t say huh.  That just proves my point if you do.)  Your ears can pick up sounds which you’re not always aware of and your brain can interpret them, no problem.

A guy named Hal C Becker realized this decades ago.  He made something called the “black box.”  It plays messages at slower or faster speeds which your ears hear, but you don’t really recognize.  At the same time, regular music is playing in a department store, for example.  You hear music you know and love, but underneath, your ears and brain are hearing messages like, “I can afford this” or “I’ll get caught if I steal” and “Someone is watching so I shouldn’t shoplift.”  First of all, it’s scary.  But what’s scarier?  It works.  Sales increase a little bit when a store’s music is laced with positive messages, but the kicker is the anti-theft deterrent powers.  Some stores report that theft goes down as much as 30-40 percent when looping subliminal anti-theft messages with their music.  Can you believe that!?  My question is: what else are we being unknowingly coaxed into doing or not doing? 

Listen closely next time you’re buying something somewhere.  The music is telling you something . . . and something else, too.


Anonymous said...

population control!! i mean controlling the mass idiots out there who don't realize this!! Think about clubs and the songs about grinding or drinking. Oh! country music... the old stuff about the alcoholics who drink to much cuz they shot their dog and their wife ran off with their best friend. anyways they play these things in bars probably to get people to drink more

Gina said...

I've seen studies and statistics that say you fall "victim" to these tactics without realizing it, and even if you can't hear the music clearly. Another study shows that people do not recognize that music is playing unless they actually know the song. That's the reason so many Muzak stations are made up of instrumentals/jazz/artsy-fartsy music: nobody knows it, so they don't notice it, they just fall in line.

Hmmmm.... did somebody mention George Orwell?

Cole Garrett said...

Seeing as though Orwell wrote his novels before the "black box" was invented, you never know, Becker could very well have been influenced by them.

Jess said...

This stuff creeps me out. I always wonder what I'm really hearing when I go to places like the mall.

Jess said...

I've given you an award. Come check it out!

Transplant said...

Kinda makes you want to peek around corners before you turn them. Big Brother is watching! (And these days, Big Brother owns Macy's)

Erin (uaoo) said...

Very interesting, especially as your brain usually just filters out stuff it doesn't judge as important or worthy of diverting attention to. So, given that I would think it wouldn't be successful because you'd normally just tune the music out.

Though I suppose if it's upbeat, popular music you don't necessarily tune it out, so there you go. Wow. Why can't we use science for good and not evil?

Post a Comment


(c)2012 Dry Humor Daily