Subliminal advertising is everywhere…or is it? The fact that some would try to appeal to my subconscious mind with hidden sounds or images is intriguing but ethically sound, I think not. The practice itself is science which is neither good or bad however the scientist or the user of such techniques, in this case subliminal advertising, can be designated as good or bad. Let’s ask ourselves a question. Why would someone want to advertise subliminally? Is this something they cannot openly advertise? Are they hiding something deeper? The list goes on and the questions only lead to more sinister suspicions. For most of us, what’s ethical can be summed up by anything we can do – without shame – in front of our rose-planting, church-going, sweet-faced grandmother; if we have to disguise or encode messages then it is assuredly unethical at least in motive.
In her article about subliminal advertising and ethics NV says that there are psychologists who would like to see subliminal messaging converted into useable tools for marketing purposes (NV, 2007). There is no denying that this could be a lucrative partnership however NV brings up a good point stating that this could be used “to alter behavior against consumers’ conscious wishes” (2007). That would certainly be unethical in both motive and function as it negates our freedom of choice.
“Who’s Minding the Mind”, an article from the New York Times in 2007, talks extensively about what role the subconscious mind has in our decision making and how simple it may be to manipulate. For better or worse, this part of our brain “is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known” (Carey, 2007). Psychology professors at Yale state that “we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness” (Carey, 2007). In light of the influence our subconscious mind has on our thoughts and, to a certain degree, actions, subliminal advertising appears to be akin to subliminal control. This is a highly unethical practice because on some level the respondents are not even aware of the message to which they are responding. Not only is it unethical, it just doesn't make sense.
Carey, B. (2007, July 31). Who's Minding the Mind? Retrieved September 20, 2012, from New York Times: Mental Health & Behavior: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/health/psychology/31subl.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www
NV. (2007, March 4). Subliminal Advertising: Psychology and Ethics. Retrieved September 19, 2012, from Psychology and Business: http://nvblog-business.blogspot.com/2007/03/subliminal-advertising-psychology-and.html