Progressive Awareness Research

Improving Lives One Person at a Time since 1984.

Subliminal Literature: Bibliography and Review


Peripheral Desk Reference W, X, Y and Z

Wachtel, P.L. & Schimek, J.G. (1970). An exploratory study of the effects of emotionally toned incidental stimuli. Journal of Personality, 38 (4), pp 467-481. ISSN: 0022-3506.


Wagstaff, G.F. (1974). The effects of repression-sensitization of a brightness scaling measure of perceptual defence. University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. British Journal of Psychology, 65 (3), pp 395-401. ISSN: 0007-1269.

Graham Wagstaff investigated the relationship between perceptual sensitivity and stimulus emotionality by employing a methodology designed to preclude the intervention of response variables.

The subjects were asked to estimate the relative brightness of pairs of physically identical light signals superimposed on subliminal words presented below the awareness threshold.
The Repression-Sensitization (R-S) scale was used as a possible personality correlate.
The results support the perceptual defense hypothesis with significant differences in modes of responding found between sexes and categories on the R-S scale.


Walker, A. (1979). Music and the unconscious. British Medical Journal, 2 (6205), pp 1641 1643. ISSN: 0007-1447.


Walker, P. (1975). The subliminal perception of movement and the "suppression" in binocular rivalry. British Journal of Psychology, 66 (3), pp 347-356.

In this article Peter Walker draws an analogy between the perceptual limitation that characterize the dichotic listening paradigm and the suppression that occurs in binocular rivalry when different stimuli are presented to the two eyes.

The present series of experiments with subjects in a dominant and in a suppressed condition, focused on the fate of the information residing in a suppressed eye (unattended channel) during binocular rivalry.

The results show that the temporal course of rivalry was sensitive to the presence of a subliminal moving stimulus within the currently suppressed field.

The effects are seen to confirm a literal interpretation of W.J. Levitt's thesis relating changes in the "stimulus strength" of rivalry field to subsequent changes in the temporal course of the phenomenon.

This interpretation is consistent with the hypothesis that, despite phenomenal suppression, a full analysis is undertaken on the currently non-dominant stimulus.

Data are related to models of selective attention and to the notion that there are parallel visual systems.


Walker, P. & Myer, R.R.
(1978). The subliminal perception of movement and the course of autokinesis. British Journal of Psychology, 69 (2), pp 225-231. ISSN: 0007-1269.

In this study, the course of autokinesis is shown to be sensitive to the real movement of a surrounding stimulus.

When the stimulus was presented supraliminally, the apparent movement was induced in a direction opposite to that of the real movement.

When the same stimulus was presented subliminally, the real movement tended to inhibit autokinesis by inducing brief periods of stationarity between the phases of upward and downward apparent movement.

The results of this study confirm previous findings that the movement of a stimulus may be discriminated without there being any perceptual (phenomena) adjunct.


Walker, P. A. (1991). The effect of audio subliminal messages on the enhancement of self-esteem, U Oklahoma, US.


Walls, K. C., J. A. Taylor, et al. (1992). "The effects of subliminal suggestions and music experience on the perception of tempo in music." Journal of Music Therapy 29(3): 186-197.

Embedded subliminal spoken messages in music to determine if subliminal spoken messages would have an effect of the perception of tempo. No such effect was found.


Watson, G.B. (1970). Motor response latency as an indicator of subliminal affective stimulation. Journal of General Psychology, 82 (2nd Half), pp 139-143. ISSN: 0022-1309.


Watson, J.P. (1975). An experimental method for the study of unconscious conflict. Guy's Hospital Medical School, London, England. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 48 (4), pp 299-301. ISSN: 0007-1129.

In this report, Watson evaluates the experimental studies reported by L.H. Silverman, in which the results of exposing subjects to contrasting types of tachistoscopic stimulation are held to support various hypotheses concerning psychopathology derived from psychoanalytic theory.

Watson questions the validity of the projective procedures used by Silverman as outcome measures.

Watson believed that Silverman has not provided grounds for assuming that the unconscious is receptive to words, that it interprets words in the same way as the conscious mind, or that tachistoscopically presented stimuli activate processes involving psychodynamic mechanisms.

A possible explanation of Silverman's results, in terms of information processing, is that the stimuli presented have affective connotations which may generate different behavioral consequences through their effects on the neural substrate of memory.


Weeks, J. L.
(1990). A procedure to measure the effects of covert death anxiety on the physiological and affective responses of student nurses, Coll of William & Mary, VA, US.


Weinberger, J. (1986). Comment on Robert Fudin's paper "subliminal psychodynamic activation: Mommy and I are not yet one". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 63 (3), pp 1232-1234.


Weinberger, J. (1989). "Response to Balay and Shevrin: Constructive critique or misguided attack?" American Psychologist 44(11): 1417-1419.


Weinberger, J. and L. H. Silverman (1990). "Testability and empirical verification of psychoanalytic dynamic propositions through subliminal psychodynamic activation." Psychoanalytic Psychology 7(3): 299-339.

Effectively argues that SPA research is at least one of the possible methods to study the theory and methods of psychoanalysis in a scientifically testable model. Asserts that the results of studies to date demonstrate support for key elements in psychoanalytic propositions.


Weinberger, J. and R. Hardaway (1990). "Separating science from myth in subliminal psychodynamic activation." Clinical Psychology Review 10(6): 727-756.

Reviews the SPA literature. Asserts that Oedipal sanction stimuli produced reliable effects while Oedipal prohibition stimuli did not.


Weinberger, J. (1992). Validating and demystifying subliminal psychodynamic activation. Perception without awareness: Cognitive, clinical, and social perspectives. T. S. P. Robert F. Bornstein, Guilford Press, New York, NY, US: 170-188.

(from the chapter) discuss an area of research innovated by the late Lloyd Silverman (1983) that he termed "subliminal psychodynamic activation" (SPA) / describe the background and evidence supporting SPA research / address the reality of these results through meta-analyses, file drawer analyses, and theoretical arguments / consider the controversial nature of these findings / (show) how the findings can be linked to contemporary work on the effects of positive affect or mood on problem solving and well-being / argue that activation of a schema or fantasy, best understood psychoanalytically, can help to explain some SPA results / (discuss) the applicability of psychoanalytical thinking to the empirical understanding of mood, affect, and unconscious processes.


Weissbein, K. (1990). Effect of subliminal Oedipal stimulation on competitive behavior in high, medium, and low castration anxiety college males, California School of Professsional Psychology, San Diego, US.


Werman, D.S. (1984). Psychological research, its pitfalls, and the wish for natural science rigor. Duke University Medical Center. International Forum for Psychoanalysis, 1 (2), pp 181-186. ISSN: 0738-8217.

In this article, David Werman discusses the work of L.H. Silverman et al.
It was Silverman who found that a subliminal message could activate unconscious fantasies of symbiosis and oneness in patients, such that their psychopathology would be alleviated or exacerbated.

Werman criticizes the traditional scientific techniques used by Silverman et al, and notes that an investigator cannot be cognizant of all of the significant variables when dealing with cases of psychopathology.

Werman also believes that Silverman
et al neglected to rigorously interpret their findings.


West, G.N. (1985). The effects of auditory subliminal psychodynamic activation on state anxiety. Ball State University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 46 (1-B), p. 319. ISSN: 0419-4209.

For this study, Gilbert West investigated the effect of auditory subliminal psychodynamic activation for treating anxiety disorders.

The results showed that both the experimental and control groups experienced decreased state anxiety after the three treatments, and that the difference between the two groups was not significant.
The placebo treatment was found to be as effective as the subliminal mode.

It was concluded that three exposures to subliminal messages was insufficient to produce the desired results.


Westerlundh, B. (1983). The motives of defence. Perceptgenetic studies: I. Shame. Lund University. Psychological Research Bulletin, 23 (7), 13 pages. ISSN: 0555-5620.

Bert Westerlundh found that subjects responded to iterated tachistoscopic presentations of a picture containing a man and a boy that was preceded by the subliminally presented words "I am glad" or "I am ashamed."

The "shame" message was found to lead to a wider spectrum of defensive reports, as assessed by percept-genetic analysis (U. Kragh and G.J. Smith, 1970).

The responses reflecting isolation, reaction formation against aggression, and intro aggression were significantly more frequent amongst the subjects in the "shame" rather than the "glad" condition.


Westerlund, B. (1983). Personal organization of the visual field: a study of ambient to focal reports of threatening stimuli. Arch. Psychol., 135 (1), pp 17-35. ISSN: 0066-6475.


Westerlundh, B. (1985). Subliminal influence on imagery: Two exploratory experiments. Lund University. Psychological Research Bulletin, 25 (6-7), 31 pages. ISSN: 0555-5620.

Bert Westerlundh performed two experiments on the subliminal influence of imagery.
In experiment one, the subjects were exposed to subliminal stimuli that were neutral or aggressively/sexually provoking.

The results showed an increase in defensive reports and a specific increase in reports of aggression (with denial of aggression) in the provoked condition.

In experiment two, the subjects were exposed to stimuli in order to study Poetzl effects, conflict and defense.

The results found no assimilation of subliminal material to imagery.

It was found that reports that are regarded as defensive in imagery therapy (e.g., inability to imagine repetitions), were not motivated by anxiety.

Both general and specific increases in defensive reports were found in provoked conditions.


Westerlund, B. (1986). On reading subliminal sentences: a psychodynamic activation study. Lund University. Psychological Research Bulletin, 26 (10), p. 18.

Conducted two SPA experiments with 120 Swedish women. Results suggest that effect does not depend on syntactic analysis but rather is more globally and emotionally oriented in terms of how the actual subliminal message is processed by the individual.


Westerlund, B.E. & Terjestam, Y.C. (1987). Psychodynamic effects of subliminal verbal messages on tachistoscopically presented interpersonal stimuli. Lund University. Psychological Research Bulletin, 27 (3), p. 21.

Mixed results from the tachistoscopic presentation of protracted verbal messages are discussed.


Westerlundh, B. (1989). "A psychodynamic activation study of female oedipal fantasies using subliminal and percept-genetic techniques." Psychological Research Bulletin, Lund U. 29(1-2): 23 p.

This study used two images, one a man and girl, the other a girl and woman together with a sexually explicit message. According to theory, defenses should be evoked. The Defense mechanism Test was used. The data supports the theory of defensive reaction formation against Oedipal impulses. Ramifications are discussed.


White, C. S. (1989). The effects of subliminally presented same and opposite-gender stimuli on anaclitic and introjective depressed males and females, U Southern California, US.


Whitehead, J.C. (1980). Vance, J., Vance, E.J.R., Vance, P., Robertson, A., -vs- Judas Priest, CBS et al. Motion for summary judgements for closing arguments. Case No. 86-5844 and 86-3939. Dept. No. 1. Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada in and for the County of Washoe.

Honorable Jerry Carr Whitehead discusses CBS's argument that subliminal communication is protected under the first amendment rights.


Whittaker, R. (1975). Subliminal Perception: Myth or Magic? Educational Broadcasting, 8 (6), pp 17-22.

Whittaker reviews significant research on subliminal perception and summarizes the evidence for and against it.


Wiener, M. & Kleespies, P. (1968). Some comments and data on partial cue controversy and other matters relevant to investigations of subliminal phenomena: rejoinder. Perceptual Motor Skills, 27 (3), pp 847-846. ISSN: 0031-5125.


Williams, L.J. & Evans, J.R. (1980). Evidence for perceptual defense using a lexical decision task. University of South Carolina. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 50 (1), pp 195-198. ISSN: 0031 5125.

Leonard Williams and James Evans studied perceptual defense using a lexical decision task.
In a tachistoscopic experiment using a lexical-decision task, the subjects responded to 64 4-, 5- and 6-letter, 1- and emotional (taboo) and nonemotional (neutral) words.

It was predicted that;

a) the subjects would be more likely to call a taboo word a nonword than they would be to call a neutral word a nonword,

b) the reaction times (RTs) to taboo words would be longer than nonwords, and

c) there would be differences in RTs and in accuracy of recognition of taboo words vs. nonwords depending on the visual hemifield to which the stimulus was projected.

The results showed that emotional words were not responded to as quickly or as accurately as nonemotional words.

This suggests evidence for perceptual defense uncontaminated by response bias.


Winett, R.L. (1981). The comparative effects of literal and metaphorical subliminal stimulation on the activation of oedipal fantasies in dart-throwing performance and word recall tasks. University of Montana. Dissertation Abstracts International, 42 (6-B), p. 2557. ISSN: 0419-4209.


Wolford, G., Marchak, F. & Hughes, H. (1988). Practice effects in backward masking. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 14 (1), pp 101-112.

George Wolford, Frank Marchak and Howard Hughes of Dartmouth College reported on two experiments demonstrating practice effects that occur in backward masking studies.


Worgull, N. O. (1991). Preconscious visual processing utilizing a peripheral masking paradigm, U Maine, US.


Worrell, L. & Worrell, J. (1966). An experimental and theoretical note on "conscious and preconscious influences on recall." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3 (1), pp 119-123.


Worthington, A.G. (1964). Effect of subliminal structural cues on reproductions of a simple line drawing. Perceptual and Motor Skills, pp 823-882.


Worthington, A.G. (1966). Generalized phenomena associated with previous pairings of UCS (shock) and subliminal visual stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3 (6), pp 634-644. ISSN: 0022-3514.


Worthington, A.G. & Dixon, N.F. (1964). Changes in guessing habits as a function of subliminal stimulation. Acta Psychology, 22.


Worthington, A.G. & Dixon, N.F. (1968). Subthreshold perceptions of stimulus-meaning. Trent University, Ontario, Canada. American Journal of Psychology, 81 (3), pp 453-456. ISSN: 0002 9556.

This article refutes the conclusions reached by J.A. McNulty, F.J. Dockrill and B.A. Levy in experiments on discrimination without awareness.




Yager, E.K. (1987). Subliminal Therapy: utilizing the unconscious mind. Medical Hypnoanalysis Journal, 2 (4), pp 138-147.

Includes a transcript of a session with a 25 year olde female patient to support four assumptions about PSA including a higher self that can serve as a mediator and communicator of the unconscious. The unconscious is viewed as capable of autonomous operation, active and intelligent.


Yager, E. K. (1988). "Treating agoraphobia with hypnosis, subliminal therapy and paradoxical intention." Medical Hypnoanalysis Journal 3(4): 156-160.

Sets out a treatment procedure for agoraphobia that includes a combination of paradoxical intention, hypnosis and subliminal stimuli.


Yahnke, B. K. (1988). "The effects of functional brain asymmetry upon subliminal perception." Imagination, Cognition & Personality 8(2): 121-139.

Conducted a study with 96 children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old using auditory subliminal stimuli. Results showed significance across scales with hemispheric processing preferences differentiated. Discusses the research in the context of functional brain asymmetry.


Zal'tsman, A. G. (1989). "Unconscious visual processing in the right and left cerebral hemispheres." Sensory Systems 3(1): 34-37.

Unconscious visual information was presented to the right or left hemisphere of 26 right handed visually dominant right eye leading men. The left hemisphere presentations reached significance showing the leading role in perception.


Zanot, E.J. & Maddox, L.M. (1982). Subliminal Advertising and Education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism, Athens, OH.

As a results of claims that the academic community ignores the subject of subliminal advertising, Eric Zanot and Lynda Maddox designed a study to ascertain;

a) the degree to which the topic is introduced in the classroom,

b) the opinions offered by professors concerning it, and

c) the source with which they acquaint their students.

The results led to six conclusions;

1) the professors were fully cognizant of the concept of subliminal advertising, and they teach it in their classes,

2) although it is discussed in a wide variety of classes, little class time is devoted to subliminal advertising,

3) subliminal advertising is also discussed in a variety of other departments,

4) educators in advertising or marketing departments teach that subliminal advertising is seldom or never used, and when they do offer opinions, they say it is unethical, unacceptable or harmless,

5) Wilson Brian Key is the source commonly associated with the topic by professors when they name individuals or sources,

6) there are no correlations between what professors say about subliminal advertising and their ages, teaching or professional experience, or whether they teach in an advertising or marketing context.


Zanot, E.J., Pincus, J.D. & Lamp, E.J. (1983). Public perceptions of subliminal advertising. University of Maryland, College of Journalism, College Park. Journal of Advertising, 12 (1), pp 39-45. ISSN: 0091-3367.

Eric Zanot, J. David Pincus, and E. Joseph Lamb conducted a telephone survey which revealed that;

1) 81% of the subjects had knowledge of subliminal advertising (SA),

2) an equal percentage of those who claimed knowledge of SA believed that it was currently being used in advertising,

3) the subjects believed SA to be unethical and harmful by a 2:1 ratio, although a smaller percentage stated that they would change their buying behavior if they thought a particular advertiser was using subliminal techniques,

4) awareness of SA was related to race, income, and education, and

5) the individual most likely to have heard of subliminal advertising was white, well education and with a $20,000+ income.


Zenhausern, R., Ciaiola, M. & Pompo. C. (1973). Subliminal and supraliminal stimulation and two trapezoid illusions. St. John's University, NY. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 37 (1), pp 251 256.

Robert Zenhausern, Michael Ciaiola and Claude Pompa investigated the effect of subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation (white noise) on two dynamic perceptual illusions.

Only the most extreme subliminal stimulation (30 decibels below threshold) was effective, significantly increasing the number of illusory experiences.

The effect was consistent across subjects and perceptual conditions.
Both the magnitude and the direction of the effect could be supported by previous research.


Zenhausern, R. & Hansen, K. (1974). Differential effects of subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation on task components in problem-solving. St. John's University, NY. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38 (2), pp 375-378.

Robert Zenhausern and Karen Hansen studied the effect of subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation on the Stencil Design Test.

The results showed that thirty decibels below threshold and 35 decibels above threshold resulted in performance decrement, while 10 decibels below threshold and 60 decibels above threshold led to facilitation.

Comparison with past research provides evidence that accessory stimulation differentially affects various components of the task.


Zenhausern, R., Pompo, C. & Ciaiola, M. (1974). Simple and complex reaction time as a function of subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation. St. John's University, NY. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38 (2), pp 417-418. ISSN: 0031-5125.

Robert Zenhausern, Claude Pompo and Michael Ciaiola tested simple and complex reaction to visual stimuli of subjects under seven levels of accessory stimulation (white noise).
Only the highest level of stimulation (70 db above threshold) lowered the reaction time.
The other levels had no effect.


Zenhausern. R. & Zwosta, M. (1969). Application of signal detection theory to subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 28, pp 669-704.


Zimbardo, P. G. and M. R. Leippe (1991). The psychology of attitude change and social influence. New York, NY, US, McGraw-Hill Book Company.

(from the preface) We wanted to bring together under one cover an integrated treatment of a wide range of research, theory, and application in the realm of social influence. /// The result is a book that covers all the major social influence topics, including persuasion, compliance, conformity, obedience, dissonance and self-attribution, conditioning and social learning, attitude-behavior relations, attitude involvement, prejudice, nonverbal communication, and even subliminal influence.

The coverage is wide, but also integrated through the use of the recurring theme of " attitude systems" in which attitudes, cognitions, behaviors, and intentions can all be affected by external agents of influence, and all can be influenced internally by each other.

We also devote two full chapters to applications of social influence principles that we see as decided " growth areas" now and in the near future. One applications chapter focuses on influence in the legal system and the other on improving the quality of life (the environment, personal health, and mental well-being). /// This book is intended primarily for undergraduates.


Zimmerman, J. K. (1990). The influences of individual differences and experimenter behavior on the effectiveness of the subliminal psychodynamic activation method, City U New York, US.


Zingirian, M., Molfino A., Levialdi, S. & Trillo, M. (1971). Monocular and binocular responses to liminal and subliminal stimuli. Ophthalmologica, 162 (1), pp 41-50. ISSN: 0030 3755.


Zuckerman, M. (1960). The effects of subliminal and supraliminal suggestion on verbal productivity. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 60.


Zuckerman, S.G. (1981). An experimental study of underachievement: The effects of subliminal merging and success-related stimuli on the academic performance of bright, underachieving high school students. New YorK University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41 (12-B, Pt. 1), pp 4699-4670. ISSN: 0419-4209.

Susan Zuckerman examined the effect of the subliminal presentation of "symbiotic gratification" and "sanctioned success-gratification" stimuli on the academic performance of bright underachieving adolescents.

This study utilized Silverman's "subliminal psychodynamic activation" method (1976, 1978 and 1980).

The subjects were assigned to view one of three messages;

1) "mommy and I are one", symbiotic-gratification,

2) "my success is ok", success gratification, and

3) "people are walking", neutral control.

The hypotheses being tested were;

1) students stimulated with either the mommy or the success message would achieve higher grade than students stimulated with the people message, and

2) students stimulated with with either of the wish-related messages would show more positive self-concepts and be less anxious and depressed than the control students.

The results confirmed the two main hypotheses. The most important finding, however, was the differential effectiveness of the experimental messages by sex. The message "mommy and I are one" was found to be adaptation-enhancing for boys and conflictual for girls. For both sexes, the mommy message was found to be the most effective and beneficial to the extent that they were;

1) initially more differentiated from mother and father, and

2) low in fear of success.

The message "my success is ok" was found to be generally beneficial for girls and non effective for boys.

For girls, the message enabled aspects of the underlying conflict to surface. Thus, girls performed better academically, but showed lower need achievement and trends towards increased affect and lower self-father differentiation.


Zwosta, M. & Zenhausern, R. (1969). Application of signal detection theory to subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation. Naussau County Youth Board, Mineola, NY. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 28 (3), pp 699-704.

Marianne Zwosta and Robert Zenhausern determined the effect of subliminal and supraliminal accessory stimulation (white noise) on a visual detection task through the use of the Theory of Signal Detection (SDT).

Both the most extreme level of subliminal stimulation (-15db) and the most extreme level of supraliminal stimulation (+15 db) resulted in the greatest increase in sensitivity, but neither had any effect on the subject's criteria.


The Controversy in the Differences of Audio Subliminal Technology

Subliminal Messages, Subliminal Audio, Subliminal Advertising and How it Works

The Power of the Subconscious Mind and Positive Thoughts or Self Talk

The InnerTalk Subliminal Technology

Report: The Truth About Subliminal Programs
(PDF Download)

Peripheral Learning Reference Guide

The Subliminal Challenge

Grants for Research