Is subliminal persuasion a myth? No: What every skeptic should know about subliminal persuasion

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Book Chapter

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


ISSUE 12. Is Subliminal Persuasion a Myth?
YES: Anthony R. Pratkanis, from “The Cargo-Cult Science of Subliminal Persuasion,” Skeptical Inquirer (vol. 16, 1992)
NO: Nicholas Epley, Kenneth Savitsky, and Robert A. Kachelski, from “What Every Skeptic Should Know About Subliminal Persuasion,” Skeptical Inquirer (September/October 1999)

Social psychologist Anthony Pratkanis argues that research claiming to demonstrate the efficacy of subliminal persuasion is either fraudulent or flawed. Carefully controlled experiments do not demonstrate that subliminal persuasion can have any effect on behavior. Nicholas Epley, Kenneth Savitsky, and Robert Kachelski agree that much of the research examining subliminal persuasion is flawed. However, more recent research using better methodologies has demonstrated that subliminal stimuli can influence behavior.


Originally published as Epley, N., Savitsky, K., and Kachelski, R. A. (September/October 1999). What every skeptic should know about subliminal persuasion. Skeptical Inquirer, 40-45; 58.

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Series: McGraw-Hill contemporary learning series.

Table of Contents:
Part 1. Ethical issues in social psychology: Is deception of human participants ethical? -- Should social psychologists try to solve social problems? -- Part 2. Social cognition: Are our social perceptions often inaccurate? -- Does cognitive dissonance explain why behavior can change attitudes? -- Applying social psychology: are self-esteem programs misguided? -- Do positive illusions lead to healthy behavior? -- Can people accurately detect lies? -- Are repressed memories real? -- Part 3. Social influence: Can social psychological research help explain the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? -- Do Milgram's obedience experiments help explain the nature of the Holocaust? -- Does the Stanford Prison Experiment help explain the effects of imprisonment? -- Is subliminal persuasion a myth? -- Can people really be brainwashed? -- Part 4. Social relations: Is stereotyping inevitable? -- Does the Implicit Association Test (IAT) measure racial prejudice? -- Can stereotypes lead to accurate perceptions of others? -- Does true altruism exist? -- Does media violence cause aggression?