Monthly Archives: September 2012
In the book by Lilienfeld et al one of the 50 myths in popular psychology they tackle is the effect of subliminal messages. Everybody knows the story about an experiment about Coca Cola and popcorn.
“In 1957 Vicary conducted his research in to subliminal messaging. He used a movie theatre in Fotr Lee, New Jersey, and over a 6 week period he tested subliminal messaging on over 45,000 movie goers.
While the patrons watched a movie (called Picnic) Vicary displayed 2 subliminal messages – on stating “Eat Popcorn” and another stating “Drink Coca-Cola”. The messages were text based subliminal messages and were displayed much faster than the human eye can see – they flashed on the screen for 3/1000s of 1 second – and they were displayed once every 5 seconds.
Results were taken by comparing the current 6 weeks sales of Coca Cola and popcorn to sales figures from the previous 6 weeks. The difference was phenomenal:
- Popcorn sales had risen by 57%
- Coca Cola sales rose by 18.1%
These figures suprised even Vicary himself. At the time the findings caused somewhat of a hysteria, further research started to be done into the influence of subliminal messages, and they were soon banned from being used within advertisements.” (source)
Problem is: Vicary faked the research actually. In a 1962 Advertising Age interview, Vicary admitted that the original study was “a gimmick” and that the amount of data was “too small to be meaningful”. (source) The problem is, even this was a lie. The experiment NEVER TOOK PLACE; Vicary just had lied and fabricated the results. It was a simple scientific fraud. (source)
OK, but does this mean that subliminal messages don’t exist and don’t work? There were many trials to copy the original research (that didn’t happen) without success. But when I last discussed this myth with some researchers they said that there is some other research and indeed the past years there was research published that tells a different story.
Dutch research from 2006 suggests it does work with some extra elements needed, check the abstract from this research article:
With his claim to have increased sales of Coca Cola and popcorn in a movie theatre through subliminal messages flashed on the screen, James Vicary raised the possibility of subliminal advertising. Nobody has ever replicated Vicary’s findings and his study was a hoax. This article reports two experiments, which assessed whether subliminal priming of a brand name of a drink can affect people’s choices for the primed brand, and whether this effect is moderated by individuals’ feelings of thirst. Both studies demonstrated that subliminal priming of a brand name of drink (i.e., Lipton Ice) positively affected participants’ choice for, and their intention to, drink the primed brand, but only for participants who were thirsty.
Priming is a technique that quite often is used in psychology. From Wikipedia:
Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus. It can occur following perceptual, semantic, or conceptual stimulus repetition. For example, if a person reads a list of words including the word table, and is later asked to complete a word starting with tab, the probability that he or she will answer table is greater than if not so primed. Another example is if people see an incomplete sketch that they are unable to identify and they are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture, later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time.
The effects of priming can be very salient and long lasting, even more so than simple recognition memory. Unconscious priming effects can affect word choice on a word-stem completion test long after the words have been consciously forgotten.
If you look at this (funny) movie, I do think it is a clear example of priming but do notice that the subliminal messages last much more than the frame in a movie.
@J3ro3nJ gave me this hint for a new myth, the 70-20-10 rule. We would only learn 10% from the formal learning situation, 20% through others and 70% through experience and practice. Check this video for some animated explanation:
Informal learning: 70-20-10. Does informal learning exist? Folks generally would say yes. But where did the ratio come from and what does it mean? It basically comes from our old Greek friend Archimedes. Then there was an academic, Allen Tough, who in the 1960s used the iceberg as metaphor, and somehow it got popularized as being a formula. Archimedes demonstrated why most of the iceberg is below the surface, and that is where the numbers come from. Think about it: what is the ratio? Is it hours? Compensation? How was it empirically studied? It’s like that old game — telephone. Someone took a conceptual metaphor and then made a misguided inference.
The 70/20/10 Model is a Learning and Development model based on research by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger for the Center for Creative Leadership. The concept states that development typically begins with realization of a need and motivation to do something about it, and that a blend of different learning approaches “in concert” can provide powerful learning. Lombardo and Eichinger stated that “the odds are that development will be”
This last phrase is quite careful, not really saying it is so, but it could probably be. But this is normal, as scientists are most of the time quite careful in what they state (in my humble opinion, I could be wrong ).
But there is one thing for sure: this statement is about the education of leaders.
“The 70-20-10 rule emerged from 30 years of CCL’s Lessons of Experience research, which explores how executives learn, grow and change over the course of their careers.
The underlying assumption is that leadership is learned. We believe that today, even more than before, a manager’s ability and willingness to learn from experience is the foundation for leading with impact.” (source)
And this is already a big warning light, because can we transfer this insight to other people? Maybe this is the case for potential leaders, but not for people like you and me?
Don Clarck states about this:
“Some have been calling for 70-20-10 to be the new learning model for across the organization, however, since is a prescriptive remedy for developing managers to senior and executive positions, it does not mean that it is a useful model for developing skills in the daily learning and work flows that takes place within organizations because it is being applied in an entirely different context than what it was designed for.” (source)
My biggest warning light is that I couldn’t find any peer reviewed scientific proof about this rule, for sure no proof for successful transfer. Of course I’m just human and could have been overlooking so every clues towards research is more than welcome!
Still… those very neat percentages… Strange, I never get those when I’m doing statistics?