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Title: What Is "placebo", and is that how subliminals work?
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What is "placebo"?  Is placebo how and why subliminals work?

To really understand what is what in the world of subliminal mind programming, one must first understand what "placebo" and "placebo effect" are.  

Most people think "placebo" and "placebo effect" either mean something other than what they mean, or are synonymous.  They are not.

A placebo is something to which is attributed a result, but that something is actually inert, doing none of what it is attributed to be doing.  The placebo effect is the thing a placebo is believed to be doing, which is actually being done by the person experiencing it, and not the placebo.

A simple example.  If I want to know whether an aspirin pill has an effect on pain, I can perform an experiment in which I create three groups of people who I will be observing.  

Group 1 will get no pill at all; they are the "control group".  They will show me what happens when there is nothing done. Group 2 will get a single aspirin pill under a specific set of circumstances.  Group 3 will get a pill made of compressed sugar under those same circumstances, and will be told it is an aspirin pill.

When the specific set of circumstances happens (let's say all groups are subjected to a stimulus that causes a headache), they will all be observed to see how they feel during the course of the headache, and how bad the headache is and how long it lasts.

Group 1 will show us what happens if we do nothing about the headache.  Group 2 will show us what happens if we take an aspirin pill to alleviate the pain.  Group 3 will show us what happens when we take a placebo.

The control group experiences what would happen if no aspirin is taken.  Let us presume for the sake of example that they rate their headaches a 5 out of 10 on a 10 point scale, and on average they have a headache for 90 minutes.

Group 2 shows us what happens as a result of the acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) they ingested, a chemical, having a physical effect on their body.  Let us say that on average they report that after 20 minutes they start feeling pain lessen from a 5, and it ends up at a 2.  

Group 3 shows us what happens when no aspirin is ingested, but the person believes that it was.  Let us say that on average they report that after 25 minutes they start feeling pain lessen from a 5, and it ends up at a 3.

Now Group 3 has a better result than Group 1, even though they both had no aspirin, and if we know for a fact that what the pill they were given is made of cannot cause pain relief, the only way to explain this is that Group 3 has had a placebo effect.  In other words, they caused themselves to experience less pain at about the same rate and to what degree is possible, because they believed they had an aspirin.  

So placebo effect is a measurable influence, either positive or negative, that results purely from the expectation of that result based on the conscious beliefs of the individual having that result.  

Placebos are useful in science because they help scientists differentiate what is doing what during an experiment, and understand what is and is not actually happening.  They are used to compare to what is known to achieve the desired effect, or what is being tested to see what it actually does, as in the example above.  In some cases, no discernible placebo effect results; in some cases, a placebo effect may result that is mild, moderate or strong.  It is possible for a placebo effect to actually be stronger than the real effect caused by the thing being tested.

With regards to subliminal audio mind programming, placebo effect is a serious concern because the subliminal audio mind programming is, by its very nature, not discernible to the conscious mind.  So to see what a subliminal audio mind program actually does, it can be tested in a manner similar to the above example.

Early subliminal mind programs (1990's and earlier) were very weak because the understanding of how to make them was very low.  They attempted to use what we knew about how to program the mind using hypnosis and NLP, as well as what we understood about the subconscious mind.  Those things were limited by the assumptions we had at the time as to the differences between the conscious and subconscious minds and what they are capable of doing.  As a result, early subliminals - if they were scripted, built and used properly - could produce a genuine result in some people, but it typically required 3 to 5 weeks of use to begin noticing any effects at all.

Because the results were so hit or miss back then, many people suspected placebo effect was the real reason for the "results", not the subliminal audio mind programming.  Some experiments were done to test this hypothesis.  In one of them, some commercially produced subliminal audio tapes (back in the ancient days of audio tapes) were purchased.  Group 1 was given no stimulus.  Group 2 was given the actual tape.  Group 3 was given a subliminal tape that was labeled incorrectly.  The result showed that groups 2 and 3 predominantly got the same results from a tape with the same label, regardless of what was actually on it.  This led to the conclusion that "it's all just placebo effect" and "subliminals don't actually do anything".

Unfortunately, this conclusion was based on misunderstanding and faulty logic.  While it is true that the placebo group demonstrably experienced the placebo effect (listening to a subliminal designed for weight loss that was labeled as stop smoking had about the same effect as a stop smoking subliminal labeled as such, for example), that does not mean that subliminals are only effective because of placebo effect and that there is nothing to subliminals.  Such thinking is black and white, which is almost invariably wrong.

In this case, the factors not taken into effect were such things as:

  • Was the subliminal scripted properly?
  • Were multiple brands of subliminals tested?
  • Was the subliminal used for enough exposure time per day, for enough days, and at an effective volume to trigger the intended result?
  • Can a subliminal be scripted that is superior in functionality to those tested?
  • Were there enough examples of enough different personality types to explain the result as being simply a response by a personality type that was more or less affected by the program?
In other words, due to a lack of understanding of the subject - and quite possibly a pre-existing desire to prove that subliminals do not work - the experiment result was interpreted in a way that oversimplifies the conclusion, thus rendering it incorrect.  

To the bullet points above, we can answer as follows:

  1. The subliminals tested were very primitive, and certainly did not represent the highest potential of effectiveness a subliminal can have.
  2. Only one brand of subliminals was tested, leaving the door open for the results to be fatally flawed because that particular brand of subliminals may have been exceptionally poorly or improperly made.
  3. The typical usage instructions for the day were, "Use this program for 1 hour per day for 30 days.", which we now know is a very inaccurate instruction to achieve the best possible results.  
  4. Over time, new ideas, methods, techniques and technologies have been applied to subliminals, and the ones that produced superior results were kept and refined.  Thus, it is in fact possible, and did in fact happen, that the methods used in creating those tested subliminals were improved upon and thus did not represent the effectiveness of all subliminals, as the tester would have us believe by their conclusion.
  5. The "personality type" has a big impact on how the person will respond to a subliminal script and audio, just as it does for hypnosis.  Some personality types can be affected successfully using multiple different phrasings of a single goal statement, while others must have one specific phrasing to be willing to cooperate and execute.  Furthermore, different personality types are more or less prone to fear, and fear is always the reason for a properly scripted, built and used subliminal to fail, either producing some effect with resistance signs; no effect at all; or reverse results. There are also differences in the perceptions, focus into and balance of emotion vs logic, interpretations of experiences, and willingness to change of different personality types, all of which affects the outcome.  These are not all the factors that must be considered, either.
It is important to be aware that even in double blind clinical trials, a sufficient lack of understanding of the subject can result in experiments that are faulty and the interpretations of which are also faulty.  Likewise, it is still possible to cause the result to be what you want it to be through subtle manipulation of the methods, variables and choice of words and grammar used, which is why experiments must be documented completely and peer reviewed.  In this way, the conscious or unconscious bias of one tester or group of testers can be revealed by the inability pf others to replicate the same results.

Unfortunately, the average person never actually reads the studies, and never takes the time to see what replications have been done of the studies and what their results were.  They simply accept that "a study was done", which to their mind automatically makes it "scientific", which they have been taught to believe is "always right".  The result is that it is easy to mislead the general public by claiming that a scientific study was done, when in fact that study may not actually have been done; may have been done incorrectly to achieve a valid result; may not be repeatable; or may not have been interpreted accurately because of either bias on the part of the experimenter, or the lack of sufficient understanding, education or information to interpret it correctly.

The placebo effect definitely exists, and in the case of subliminals, can definitely influence one's experiences with them.  Both positive and negative placebo effects are possible, as well.

For example, if someone is given a placebo, and told that it is actually a subliminal that will force them to overcome procrastination, the results will tend to be heavily skewed towards negative placebo effect.  Those who do not want to be "forced" to do something will tend to respond with resistance, which will typically result in either a prevention of any effect (stonewalling response) or a reversal of the desired result (reverse resistance) even when the actual subliminal is used. Those who would prefer to be told what to do, or who don't mind being "forced", will tend to get more of a positive placebo result than they would have if they had simply been told that the placebo is a subliminal designed to get them to stop procrastinating.

I use procrastination as an example because it allows me to show the interesting effects that we can get from placebo and from the real deal that are not necessarily different.  People who procrastinate are doing so out of resistance to doing whatever is being procrastinated.  This means that this group, by their very nature, is resisting something (resistant by nature).  It is my belief that they also strongly tend as a group to resist whatever they conclude is "being told what to do".  In other words, they hate being controlled, which I conclude is because it makes them feel unsafe or insecure to not have that control.

In the case of a real subliminal that is designed to get people to stop procrastinating, it can be observed that much the same result is achieved by the people using it as the placebo would achieve: some will get positive results, but the majority get either no result, or they start procrastinating even more as a reverse resistance tactic, which is intended to assure that nobody can be controlling them.

In such a case, it would be the conclusion of the average person that if the placebo and the "real deal" are achieving essentially the same results, then the "real deal" must be operating on placebo effect.  And again, this would not necessarily be correct as a conclusion, however logical it may at first glance seem to be.

Why?  Because in the case of subliminals, the placebo effect shows us what the person responds with when they consciously believe they are being exposed to the "real deal".  If they are exposed to the "real deal" they should in fact respond the same as if they are exposed to a placebo, only with more obvious, concrete results.  So if they hate being told what to do, and the subliminal is interpreted by them as "being told what to do", they will resist it the same with nearly identical results whether they are listening to a placebo or not!  The difference would lie in how powerful the subliminal is.  The exception would be a subliminal that is capable of bypassing or overcoming that resistance response.

As you can see, there are a variety of variables to consider, and determining the actual validity of subliminal mind programming is not a binary operation.  It requires deeper understanding and knowledge, and more complex experiments.

To really see what is placebo and what is not, the above example for procrastination would necessarily have to be designed similarly to the following example:

Group 1 is the control group.  They are exposed to nothing and told nothing.

Group 2 is exposed to the Overcoming Procrastination subliminal, and told that they are being exposed to the Overcoming Procrastination subliminal.  

Group 3 is given a placebo of a subliminalized recording of the ocean surf, and told they are being exposed to the Overcoming Procrastination subliminal.

Group 4 is exposed to a weight loss subliminal, and told they are being exposed to the Overcoming Procrastination subliminal.

Group 5 is exposed to the Overcoming Procrastination subliminal, and told that they are the control group, and are being exposed to nothing.

Group 6 is given a placebo of a subliminalized recording of the ocean surf, and told that they are the control group, and are being exposed to nothing.

Group 7 is exposed to a weight loss subliminal, and told that they are the control group, and are being exposed to nothing.

Now if the above experiment uses enough people per test group, and it is double blind, we have an experiment that can show us what is really going on.  

Group 1 will show us what happens when nothing is done or suggested.  We should see no change.  

Group 2 will show us what happens when people use the actual subliminal, and they consciously know they are using it.  This can reveal conscious and subconscious responses.  

Group 3 will show us what happens when the person believes they are using a subliminal to stop prograstination, but they are listening to the ocean surf instead.  The expected result would be either a placebo effect or the result of listening to the ocean surf, which would either be relaxation (if it is being enjoyed), annoyance (if it is not being enjoyed) or a desire to pee (as listening to the sounds of water often trigger bladder contractions by association with the sounds of urination).  

Group 4 will show us what happens when a person consciously believes they are using an anti-procrastination subliminal, when in fact they are using a weight loss subliminal.  One of the following results should be observed:  placebo response (procrastination detectably increases or decreases), weight is lost (or gained, if the script is being resisted), or both at once.

Group 5 shows us what happens when the person is exposed to the actual subliminal, but consciously does not know they are being exposed to it.  This is the group we are most interested in observing, because if they achieve a positive or negative response, it cannot be placebo.  The only way they can fail to achieve any result is if the script is ineffective, or they stonewall the program's execution, which can be interpreted as a form of resistance, or a placebo effect overriding the real effect, which (in a properly made subliminal of sufficient power) should not be possible; therefore, this result would most likely be classified as a stonewalling resistance result, especially if they tended to procrastinate a lot and showed other signs of being a personality resistant to "being told what to do".  An ineffective script can be ruled out if ANY of the members of this group get a positive or negative result that is in line with the goal of the script.

Group 6 will show us what happens when they are exposed to the ocean surf, while thinking they are being exposed to nothing.  

Group 7 will show us what happens when they are exposed to the weight loss subliminal, while thinking they are being exposed to nothing.  This is another group we want to pay attention to, because a result of weight loss or gain would show the subliminal was having an effect, while a "no result" response would again have to either be interpreted as stonewalling resistance, ineffective script or placebo effect.  And again, an ineffective script can be ruled out if ANY of the members of this group get a positive or negative result that is in line with the goal of the script.

With all of these seven groups in play, we can have a very good overview of what is really going on, and have comparative data to use for interpretation of the results as well.

I have done many, many experiments over the years since 1991 concerning subliminals.  Some have been on myself, and some have been on others.  Some have been blind, and some have been double blind.  What I have noted consistently is that it is easy to spot those who will have the strongest and most obvious placebo effect, because they are what we call "true believers".  They don't just have a neutral open mind without expectation, they want to believe that the program will work, whether consciously or subconsciously, and this desire, expectation and enthusiasm produces placebo effect.  

Likewise, there are those who consistently get a reverse placebo effect, actively resisting the effects and results, even if they don't know they are being exposed.  (I always obtain consent from testers before exposing them to a subliminal for experimental purposes, but they may be exposed days, weeks or even months after giving their consent, and they may encounter me several times in the interim without being exposed.  This assures consent, and removes the chance of expectation of exposure producing a false positive result.)  If a person is exposed to a subliminal that is known to have a successful result on a majority of users who are not aware they are being exposed, and this person has a reversal of or negation of that result, then we can conclude that they are resisting the effects of the subliminal.

In the end, the answer to the question we posed at the top is not as simple as just a yes or no.  I have seen people respond to subliminals that work, and subliminals that don't work, by exhibiting a placebo response, under the right conditions.  If the advertising is sufficiently exciting or interesting, a placebo response can boost the actual results for a time in some cases.

Subliminal programming, however, does have its own effect and works well when the program is scripted built and used properly.  How well depends on a large number of variables, including the personality of the person using it, what their beliefs are and what their previous experiences are.  Even when a subliminal is scripted, built and used properly, not everyone will get the same level of results from it.  My goal is to achieve the best that can be done with a subliminal, so that everyone gets the most possible results from it.

During what has become decades of experiments, I have devised a number of ways to quickly and accurately know whether a subliminal is having an effect or not.  I developed a specific type of subliminal that I use for performing experiments (whenever it is effective for testing whatever I am trying to test) and this will give me very accurate information that is relatively easily discerned and quite rapid in onset and impact.  In many cases, I can start observing results in between a couple minutes and tens of minutes.  

What I have found, repeatedly and consistently, is that in fact subliminal audio can be sensed by the subconscious mind through both masked and ultrasonic formats.  Further, many things can be accomplished through a subliminal set of instructions, as long as the instructions are understood and executed.  Cases where placebo effect is literally impossible still produce positive, repeatable, predictable and consistent  results, time and time again.  So it is clear that placebo is not how subliminals by themselves work.

However, we should consider that placebo is the effect of the expectation of the conscious mind, and how this influences parts of the subconscious mind.  In fact, placebo is the result of nothing less that a simple form of self hypnosis!  It is the conscious mind forming a desire and/or expectation, which is somehow translated by the subconscious mind into an active result that is measurable.  This result shows the power and ability of the subconscious mind.

When we use hypnosis, we are working with the conscious mind to cause the subconscious mind to act and react in specific, desirable ways.  When we use subliminals, we are working directly with the subconscious mind to accomplish the same thing.  The difference is in the involvement, or lack thereof, of the conscious mind.  And when we experience placebo, the expectation and desire - and sometimes fears - of the conscious mind influence the subconscious in the same ways as if the person were being hypnotically influenced.  As I said before, the placebo effect is really a form of self hypnosis and autosuggestion.

The interesting thing to consider here is that the subliminal that actually works without the conscious mind knowing that it is being exposed to a subliminal is triggering the subconscious to respond in a way that is not placebo.  The placebo effect only works because the conscious expectations, fears and or desires influence the same subconscious to produce a result.

Thus we can conclude that placebo effect is impossible if the person is not also hypnotizable, since it is just a form of self hypnosis.  

The lay person does not understand placebo.  The way it is used and misused by the lay public, and the media, means that its definition has changed from what it is to something else.  The lay public believes that "placebo" means "fake, false, imaginary, not real, in error".  What it really means is... we have a lot more power and ability than we realize, and in order to know what is doing what, sometimes we need to prevent the conscious mind from being influenced by the subconscious mind.

Subliminals, properly built, scripted and used, can and do work.
Subliminal Audio Specialist & Administrator

The scientist has a question to find an answer for. The pseudo-scientist has an answer to find a question for. ~ "Failure is the path of least persistence." - Chinese Fortune Cookie ~ Logic left. Emotion right. But thinking, straight ahead. ~ Sperate supra omnia in valorem. (The value of trust is above all else.) ~ Meowsomeness!

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