The mechanism of subliminal advertising - propaganda and its multimedia application may be described based on: Gestalt. Ocular Physiology, Semiotic and the Neurophysiological theories of Sperry and MacLean.

This can prove that the ''Merchandising'' in the soap operas , comics and other media in Brazil is a subliminal technique that is enclosed in article 20 of Ad. Ethics Code and article 36 of the Consumer's Code.

Future uses of subliminal: may be usefull in Health-care, Education and Arts. such kind of techniques I have batized ICONESO, creating the SUBLIMINAL SEMIOTCS as a part of the SUBLIMINAL MEDIOLOGY.


Observing all the bibliography in Comunication available in Portuguese, we get to the conclusion that the problem about Subliminal Propaganda is treated very superficially and most of the references to tachistoscope (related to Jim Vicary's experiences, in 1956, in a cinema ), are redundant.

Before that, it can be asked the problem if other experiences were developed between 1956 and 1999, and if were used other techniques and other media besides cinema.

What is wanted to do here is to enumerate what other techniques are been used to emit subliminal messages, and also tell about their functioning and applications. Here are analysed all the bibliographic material available in Portuguese, Spanish, English and French, including specialized periodics, technical books , Internet websites , pratical experiments and study of cases.


In truth, the problem about Subliminal perception is historically very ancient. It remounts to Democrito (400 B.C.), Plato ( in ''TIMEO''), Aristotle (in ''PERVA NATURALIA''), Montaigne (in 1580) and even Leibniz ( in 1698), the historical Thesis of Otto Poetzle (in 1919) ; in 1960-1970 by Marshall McLuhan (PhD), Umberto Eco ( PhD) and others; until the brasilians atomic physician Mario Schenberg , PhD, and the Philosopher of the New Technologies Vilem Flusser. All of them made many references about this subject in their works.

Poetzle, Freud's follower, in 1919 developed a complex theory about dreams and formulated the ''Law of Exclusion''. He stated that the content of dreams is composed by all subliminal material ''captured'' by day, in our vigil moments.

In addition, according to Gestalt, human perception occurs when a pattern of stimulus is focused. In this process, focus is figure and everything left over is back.

Carl Gustave Jung explains that conscience is like a spotlight; what is not lightened is the back - out of our focus, preconscious, subliminal. To him, always that any sensorial organ or psychic function presents any kind of limitation (consciousness' threshold, memory, etc.), then there will be subliminal perception - since that Personal Unconsciousness is made of subliminal perceptions, not conscious, which are the basis of all kinds of intuition (corresponding to shadow's archetype).

So, this way, everything that was excluded (Law of Exclusion, by Poetzle) of conscious perception (figure/back) becomes subliminal (back), and it is stored in Personal Unconsciousness.

Also in Theory of Information we can find noise's conception. If one's focus is a Wagner's record, for instance, then noise will be the tv sounds emitted simultaneously outloud. On the other hand, if one's focus are the tv sounds, Wagner's songs will be noise. That is the same process ocurred in Visual Pollution.

Saturation of information (Clutter effect) in media or in our environment causes them to be completely undistinguished, according to Al Ries and Jack Trout.

When it happens, every comunication becomes back. This fact can be called ''McLuhan effect''., or ''Perceptual Overload'', and what characterizes it is the very fast edition of images. Moving fast images impede conscious focus (conscious perception) and overload people with much information.

Because of this fact, all the material not captured consciously by people goes directly to Personal Unconsciousness.

A mathematical formula can be proposed to measure and describe the technique:

subliminal = too much information
                     short exposure time

The subliminal stimulus can be ergonometric mensured by to divide the number of bits in the message by the time of expoure that the person had to receive the signal.

Vicary's experiment can also be included in this formula. At June 10th, 1956, ''Sunday Times'', a journal of London published the very first application of subliminal technique in Marketing made by an advertising man named Jim Vicary.

In his experiment, Jim used a tachistoscope (to project images at a speed of 1/3000 second) and then laid an slide saying ''drink coke'' over fotogrammas of the movie ''Picnic''. This fact caused a great increase in coke's sellings.

    Iconeso     1) Archinbold effect ( century XVI) -icon     made by different icons;

    2) Double Image ( Bruno Munari,     Century XX Designer) -icon made by     icons equal each other;

    3) Semiotic Intra-traduction ( Júlio     Plaza, PhD and telematic artist)-symbol     made by icons;

One case studied was the portuguese sentence ''Sexo com amor'' ( Sex with love) ; an iconeso which came from the kind of semiotic intra-traduction's modality.

The letters are conventional-cultural symbols, and the human eye makes a very fast and conscious fovea's sweeping, decoding letter by letter, syllable by syllable, word by word, the message is procecessed in brain's left hemisfere ( Sperry) and this attention makes the letters the Figure ( Gestalt).

But the letters are designed with human naked couples in positions that are simmilars to the form of letters; this designed people are icons, which are peceived subliminally by peripheral sight as back ( Gestalt) , therefore influencing brain's right hemisphere ( Sperry).

Another case is the poster of the movie ''Silence of the lambs'', an specime who demonstrate the possibility of overcoming iconesos in degrees of subliminality:

A) The poster of the movie ''Silence of the lambs''; Jodie Foster with a butterfly over her mouth;

B) Iconeso of first degree: the white skull is a subliminal visual message inside the back of the orange colour butterfly;

C) Iconeso of second degree: three white women whose naked bodies make the shape of the skull ( this iconeso is of the kind ''Archimbold's Effect'' );

D) Iconeso of third degree: four more women in orange colour contour the others three white women , making complete the photographic surrealistic essay of Salvador Dali ''in Voluptate Mors'', 1951 ; in true, this four in the seven women are dissimulated by the orange colour to create this colour subliminal technique.

Each degree is more difficult to perceive than the former, in a geometric progression of subliminal messages by the overcoming of colour techniques in the kinds of iconesos.

Besides all these visual subliminal technologies , there are also auditive technologies found also in the eletronic media how : radio, television and cinema ( even in sounding background at 20.000 cycles per second ), being, therefore, a multimedia technologie whose effects are in the field of studies proposed by Régis Debray's Mediology- sistematic research of the global village culture of the mass media .

In Brazil, Zé Rodrix has done a jingle to General Motors' Company, whose rythm was 80 cycles per second, exactly the heart's rythm of a mother breast-feeding (according to Rodrix, what would permit a subliminal association between cars, maternal care and comfort).

Even in tv journalism, gestures, facial expressions, entonation of voice, all of them conduct sense, as a subliminal metalanguage.

There are techniques used in personal sellings based on the activation of subliminal links, by means of rythm of breath, corporal echos, accent of voice and hidden commands.

The acts of language in Greimas' Semiotics are kinds of subliminal manipulation. According to Maria Thereza Fraga Rocco, the ''figures of language'' of Rhetoric have subliminal persuasive effects, and she also affirms that embedded answers are able to manipulate public.

So, this way, subliminal techniques can be applicated in any text, slogan, and even rumors - if we consider Psychology of Rumor and all the psychological techniques used in ''Marketing Warfare''.

The best medium for those texts would be the pamphlet, due to its format and distribution, besides the natural subliminal effects of graphic speech. Going from process, to the ilustrations, every visual programming can be orchestrated in order to obtain a synesthesic subliminal message.

Researches about human pherormones have developed new perspectives of. olfative and chemical messages in foods, cosmetics, perfumes and even clothes.

One of my own early experiments with subliminal stimulus had begin in march, 1991, in the Telematic Laboratories of the University of Santos-Brazil ( Unisantos).

The french ''Minitel'' ( called ''Videotexto'' in Brazil) had its interactive possibility underestimed; the brazilian user in 1991 only read the screem of the computer, in a momologal way, never answering or even using the interactivity of this new media .

In this Labs we have a program ( a kind of eletronic magazine, homepage or site with atualization each week), called ''Videozine'', were we made a scientific research about statistically mensurable effects of subliminals in the public brazilian telematic net, using the french software , project approved by the coordinater of the lab, Professor Silvio Enio Bergamini Filho, and the journalist Paula Prata Vandenbrand.

Our research had by objective to make the user answer to the educational subliminal stimulus , increasing the interactivity by messages anti- apathy and awaken the felling of be a citizen ; and the methodology was to adapt and create subliminal high-tech to the brazilian ''Videotexto''; with the expectation of increase a rate of 10% in the audience-acess ( time of acess and number of users ) in this open and public telematic sistem, the mensurable results would be very officials : the Statistics Reports made by the public Telephonic Company of São Paulo ( Telesp) from the government.

Are created techniques how ''Tritela'' ( tree blocks in the user's computer screem in very fast speed, without delay ) , flickers of icons and short sentences, colours, etc ...

In the first month, ''Videozine'' becomes a successfull mega-hit on the web, we need to triplicate the space in the memory of the central computer by the answers published without censure- collective authory, and others ''broadcastings'' ( sites-homepages) create immitations ( but without our new computer's subliminal technology).

In the end of this first month ( mars, 1991) the Telesp registered an increase in the rate of 90%, overcoming our innitial expectation of 10% .

The innitial number of access of entire Unisantos sistem was only 200 access in february-1991 and other months before our subliminal experiment, and in april-1991 the sistem had 1.100 access, an increase in the rate of 550% in relation at the Telesp's Official Statistics of the same months in former years.

This experiment , statistically comprovated, demonstrates the potential of Subliminal Midiology and it's high-tech effects on users of the telematic net of ''Videotexto'' ; by analogy, the same could be say from the old french technology of ''Minitel'' to the Internet and either other similar computer web using our developed new subliminal telematic technology.

The journalist and professor Vance Packard, from Connecticut, New Canaam, published his book , ''The hidden persuaders'', and in this work he criticized a lot Vicary's subliminal technique. He said people would not be permitted to choose things freely, because of the subliminal suggestion.

Packard's work was responsible for all the myth and taboo about Subliminal Propaganda in the media, arousing many citations related to this subject until 1999. Consequently, a Federal Trade Comission prohibited the use of any technology based on tachistoscope's speed in any mass medium in USA.

Wilson Bryan Key describes the cellular morphology of human eye and explains that fovea is the conscious sight ( the cells called cones, on fovea, sees colors), while peripheral sight is the subliminal visual reception area (road-shaped cells, which see things in black and white).

Considering all those researches, many techniques have been developed in Brazil (what people usually call ''merchandising'') in television ''novelas'' ( soap operas ). They are experiences envolving video's edition, websites on Internet , CDRoms and shop window with moving effects ( see the Subliminal Mediology synoptic chart at the end of this paper).

Semiotics proves that foveals scanning catches an icon (image or figure) instantaneously, what leads to the conclusion that icons (or analogical signs) are the most appropriate signs to subliminal speeds.

Roger Sperry (Nobel Award in Anatomy and Neurophysiology, 1981) proved, with the cure of epilepsy (by sectioning callous body), the lateralization of cerebral functions and that icons'. visual perception is made by brain's right hemisphere.

Remembering that optical nerve is crossed (what means that left eye emits messages to the right hemisphere, and vice-versa) , it is possible to verify that subliminal icons should be placed at left visual field, in order to maximize results.

Several researches about consumer's behaviour confirm this technology. By making use of techniques in brain's maping and E.E.G. (electroencephalogram), they state that ''low consuming goods'' transmitted by electronic media are the more efficient ones to subliminal messages. It is the advertising strategy of ''brand's image'', which acummulates iconic details in brain's right hemisphere subliminally.

The subliminal impact is greater if public don't take up arms. That is, if message is inserted in any editorial material (''merchandising'') or in any kind of program - not in the commercial break.

Other Freudian's researchers emphasize the sexual appeal of subliminal messages, as an example of Ero's motive or life's instinct. This emphatic use of sex is explained by Paul McLean's theory (he is a reseacher from Laboratory of Evolution of Brain and Behaviour, in Maryland). According to him, human brain has evolved in three stages:

a) Reptile Brain - seat of primary behaviour (sex, food, territory, attack, escape.) - corpus striatum,globus pallidus,etc..;

b) Limbus Complex - mammalian brain, herd instincts ( progeniture,altruism, interaction, hierarchy .) -hypophysis, pituitary, hippocampus, etc..;

c) Neocortex - human brain, abstractions and creativity, ( symbolic languages, reading, calculation.) - frontal, parietal, temple and occipital lobes.

And analogy can be traced between this theory and Maslow's Motivational Theory, which says that there are three kinds of motives:

1) physical motives -physiological and care needs;

2) interaction motives - needs of ''status'' and affection;

3) self motives - self-realization.

Both of trines remind Freud's trinity very much: id, ego and superego.

Upon these theories, the subliminal trajectory of erotic image along the brain can be proposed, according to my heuristic researches :

A) An individual is exposed to an erotic visual stimulus ( in a speed of 1/3.000 of second.)-more effective if it is an Icon.

B) The erotic image is processed in brain's right hemisphere ( Nobel Prize Sperry).

C) The erotic icon causes reactions in Reptile Brain ( McLean) exciting reproducer systems.

Therefore, with the tachistoscope, it was possible to prove the effects of subliminal signals send to the human brain, who reacts to an icon projected at a speed of exposure until 3.000 per second.

Subliminal icons perceived as back, go, this way, towards to the brain's right hemisphere and Reptile Brain. These icons may be embedded in others, messages inside other messages, as ''doble messages'' - a method which remounts to Giuseppe Arcimboldo (''The Arcimboldo effect'', got by images built inside others, or the Bruno Munari's ''double images'' , semiotic intra-traductions and some kinds of the anamorphosis).

It is proposed here a general denomination to these various icons, classified with the embedded images technique: iconeso (icon=image; eso=inside, in Greek), The iconeso is a basis to the Subliminal Semiotic , as it is demonstrated by studie of cases how the poster of the movie ''Silence of the Lambs'' ( And it is comprobated by all the other researches demonstrated in my Philosophy-Doctorate Thesis in Communication Sciences at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, 1993.).

The Iconesos are specimens collected in media , classificated in species and kinds using the traditional ''Porfirio's Tree'' from library of Alexandry-Egipt, century III Before Crhist; his sistem is very usefull in exploratory researches.

Also Colour's subliminal psychodynamic has already been used in Decoration and Architecture of MacDonald's snack bars, and others fast-foods , where reddish yellow (perception's time: 0,1 second ) activates hypotalamus and stimulate hunger.

Yet about subliminal colours, in the night of december, 16, 1997, 06:30 p.m. in Tokio, Japan, in the Telebi ( Network of 35 channels of Television) , the animated cartoon ''Pokemon'' send a tachycoscopic flashes of colours ( Red-White-Blue in a perceptual overload of 10,8 per second) and this subliminal signal send 729 victims to the hospitals, and 12.950 students don't go to the schools in the next days, with convulsions, vomits, dizziness, haemorrhages and other symptons that the medical doctor Yukio Fukuyama baptizes how a new disease- Televisive Epilepsy. Therefore, my studies of this case results in papers selected and presented in Scientific International Congresses, which iniciates the comprobation of my new paradigma of Subliminal Mediology .

Almost all of the technologies mentioned here are not-assumed techniques of Propaganda and, consequently, thet are non-ethic techniques , in the same way that hipnosys, by contempt the free will of citizens.

How all this techniques hiden and conceal the real propaganda message, making it non-ostensible, my hermeneutics propose that they could be enclosed in article 20 of the Ethic Code of Advertising Professionals and article 36 of the Consumer's Code, both brasilian regulamentations, being , therefore, forbiden in brazilian country.


From everything that was exposed here, we understand that there are other subliminal technologies in Mass Media Communication besides tachistoscope, which were developed from 1956 to 1999 and permitted the multimedia orchestration of subliminal advertising and propaganda campaigns.

Considering ethical and juridical aspects, almost all of the propaganda technologies described here do hurt the free will of public and it is the reason of invalidity of buy-and-sell contracts, and cessation and invalidation of ellections in which politicians have made use of those techniques. According to juridical's point of view, those messages are guilty or deceitful,and in both cases they may be condemnable by law.


The subliminal technique is being used in Experimental Psychology since 1863 by Suslowa.

Lloyd Silverman developed in 1960s the ''Subliminal Psychodynamic Activation's Method'' whith clinical and therapeutic purposes. By means of subliminal techniques, he intended to cure obesity, homosexualism and even schizophrenia.

Since 1985, Llewellyn maintains in north-american trade tachistoscopic tape records, used to stop smoking, lower arterial pressure, etc. Its greatest enemy is the Valley of the Sun, who makes similar tapes (Tachistoscope subliminal technology in videocassettes tapes was developed by Beckers in 1985.).

In Business Administration, computer's software presents, like a virus, tachistoscopic messages with the intention of increasing the productivity of employees. Computer's terminals, Internet, CDRoms and domestic videocassettes are not true mass media, not public, and this fact keeps them away from legal prohibition in USA .

In movie theaters and elective Meetings it is the same: visual, auditive and synesthesic techniques in general are used naturally, they aren't mass media by legal deffinition.

Besides the Marketing, Political and Clinical using, there is also the Educational use. That has happened since 1960, when Vanderbeek developed the ''Movie Drome'', created for teaching people every thing about motors mechanics - only in 10 minutes. Nowadays, there are several subliminal methods which help a lot the learning of foreign languages.

Also against robberies many applications have been developed: the ''Corporate of Behavioural Engineering - Engineering of Emotions'' (Luisiana, New Orleans, USA) put in super markets' sound systems a second wave which emits the message ''I am honest'' many times, with regular interviews. In Oregon, the ''Proactive Systems'' patented a similar system, that reduced robberies rate in 30% in 81 supermarkets of 4 states of USA.

In the entertainment, DouglasTrumbull developed the ''Showscan'', a subliminal medium that had, in 1990, 3 exhibition rooms in USA and one in Paris. ''Showscan'' is a kind of cinema whose film with 70 mm has 60 frames per second, in 1999 there are one more in the FUTUROSCOPE, in Poitiers, France.

In Advertising, brazilian soap operas (novelas) ''Merchandising'' (which originally came from american movies and comics, as in ''Popeye'') could also be fit in subliminal modalities studied here. Brazilian community considers ''merchandising'' as subliminal, and in United States, Warren Miller, expert in subliminal techniques in cinema, describes the technology and clarify all the ''obscure'' subliminal methodology also used in brazilian tv programs.

To finish, lamentablement, the so called ''Pokemon Panic'' in 1997, Japan, demonstrates the possibility of subliminal technology as a warfare weapon, not only Psychological Warfare, but even as physical injury - Televisive Epilepsy- with convulsions, vomits, haemorrhages and dizziness ( in Internet, Doctor Tomabechi's homepage explain that the tachicoscopic signal can cause brain damage or even Death.).

Future researches would be made about the so-called ''Technologies of the Light'' ( Laser, Optical Fibers, CDRom, Holografia, waves highters than hertz- how the gama and cosmic radiation and others, etc..) whose nature of great speed and big amount of information is perfect to tachicoscopic signals and demonstrates our mathematic formula to measure subliminal stimulus in the mass media and Internet or in the glasses of Virtual Reality.


CALAZANS, Flávio Mário de Alcântara. Propaganda Subliminar Multimidia. 3. edição , São Paulo, Summus editorial, 1998.

CALAZANS, Flávio Mário de Alcântara. Subliminal messages to a new world. paper approved and presented in the ''XVIII Scientific Conference of the International Association for Mass Communication Research'' ( IAMCR ).

CALAZANS, Flávio Mário de Alcântara. ''Teoria da Comunicação Subliminar''. In : J.B.Pinho (Org.).Trajetória e questões contemporâneas da publicidade brasileira .2.edição, São Paulo, Intercom, 1998. ( paper approved , presented and published by the workgroup on advertising from the Brazilian Congress of Communication Sciences).

Receiving Sensorial organ basis of the signal Comunication Code Kind of Mensage Subliminal technique Medium
Eye Physical Visual Dynamic tachistoscopic Projection Cinema / tv / computer / Internet / video.
Peripeheral Sight (twinkling movement) Cinema / tv / video / videotex / neon / shop window / teather stage / CDRoms / political stage / colours / Internet
Static   P
iconesos (Subliminal Semiotics) Photos / Paintings / Drawings / Logotypes / Onomatopoeia (comics) / Colours / Websites on Internet / CDRoms
graphic speech Newspaper / Magazine / book / Pamphlet / printeds / colours / Internet / CDRoms
both static and dynamic Urban / environment / Iconesos Outoor / Posters/ Limelight / Architeture/ shop's front / Design / graffiti / colours
Ear Physical Auditive Sounding Subliminal Sound engineering Supermarket / Shopping Centers / Office / Consulting Rooms / Banks / Cinema / Television / Theatre / Shows / Video-cassetes / Computers / Schools and Universitys / music Cds / Political stage
Sounding Background / jingle Tv / video / Radio /theater / Shopping Centers / Banks / Shows / Consulting-rooms / Political stage / CDRoms / Internet
Verbal Figures of Language / Imperatives / Rhyme / refrain / Question with / Embedded answer / Personal selling / Rumor / slogan Speech (Also where could be words printed or write, how in the Internet)
Skin Physical (Tact) --- Textures Kind of Priting / Papers / products/ packages
Nose Chemical (Olfaction) --- Extracts / Fragances / Pherormones Printing's ink / Cosmetics / Theater / Political stage / Consulting Rooms / Shopping centers
Tonge Chemical (Palate) --- Tastes Foods / Toothpaste / Cigarettes / etc

Copyright by : Flavio Mario de Alcantara Calazans, PhD

WARNING : All these techniques could be dangerously superimposed and or mixed, do not try make yourself, remember the ''Pokemon'' event and the consequences.


Ilustração feita por Renê Dalton
Ilustração feita por Renê Dalton
Ilustração feita por Renê Dalton
Ilustração feita por Renê Dalton