SUBLIMINAL PICTORIAL STIMULI, COLOR, AND CONSCIOUS PERCEPTION
Research into the nature of subliminal stimulation has indicated its influence upon perception, memory, drive level, thinking, and perhaps consumer buying behavior. Studies assessing the connotations of color have generally found red to be an exciting, affect-arousing hue. The present study assessed the impact of subliminal pictorial modifications (happy or angry), chromatic background (red or white), and their interactions upon impressions of a neutral human face. A complete factorial design allowed the investigation of every combination of these variables. It was hypothesized that the subliminal facial modifications would influence conscious perception of the neutral supraliminal face in the desired direction, and that color (red) would enhance the impact of the subliminal modifications. A series of researchers have found subliminal suggestion (pictorial, semantic, or figural) to affect conscious perceptual impression. The color red has been associated with both verbal reports and physiological indices of heightened emotion. Few studies, however, have systematically explored the influence of subliminal stimulation in interaction with color. One study demonstrated that a subliminal aggressive stimulus, projected upon a red background, diminished analytic performance; another study found subliminal sexual stimuli, when presented upon a red background, to be associated with an exaggerated affective response. In order to investigate subliminal stimulation, color, and their interaction, 52 volunteer college students were randomly assigned to one of six treatment conditions, providing 8, 9, or 10 subjects per group. All subjects were screened for defective color vision. The luminance of the red and white stimuli were equated through heterochromatic flicker photometry. The stimulus presentations utilized a computer-programmed multiple slide projector format. Subjects viewed a supraliminal neutral face with or without subliminal/chromatic modifications and rated their impressions on a simplified, 13-item, bipolar-adjective scale, representing the dimension of pleasantness/unpleasantness. All groups received the same basic experimental procedure: color vision screening, random assignment to seating, ascending method of limits to calibrate "subliminal" levels of illumination, "priming" of relaxed cognitive set, stimulus presentation, rating of impressions, discrimination task, disclosure of subliminal stimulus, and discussion. The data regarding the pleasantness/unpleasantness of impression of the human face were subjected to a 3 x 2 Analysis of Variance-Fixed Effects Model. The null hypothesis was not rejected in regard to group differences due to the main effects (subliminal modification and chromatic background) or their interactions. The subliminal modifications were at a level of illumination which was below the level of awareness, in all four subliminal groups. The internal consistency of the items on the dependent measure (Impressions Sheet) yielded an Alpha Reliability Coefficient of .95. Thus, neither the chromatic background, nor subliminal pictorial modification significantly altered impressions of a clearly visible, but briefly exposed, neutral face in this study. The results were explained in relation to factors which may attenuate the impact of the subtle and complex subliminal phenomenon.
BARRY ROBERT SCHAKNER,
"SUBLIMINAL PICTORIAL STIMULI, COLOR, AND CONSCIOUS PERCEPTION"
(January 1, 1981).
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